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“ALTERING THE DEAL” – AI Techniques Clone Darth Vader’s Voice

Written by.EXARTA

Vanity Fair reports that Ukrainian tech company Respeecher has used AI technology to clone James Earl Jones‘ iconic Darth Vader voice for Disney+’s newest Obi-Wan Kenobi series.

Lucasfilm supervising sound editor Matthew Wood discussed how he had recorded James Earl Jones’ performances as Darth Vader at least a dozen times, most recently for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in 2019. Around that time, the now 91-year-old Jones had begun the sad but inevitable discussion about how his time as the character was coming to an end.

The team at Lucasfilm started to look for ways to keep his iconic voice going in what they hoped would be many more years of Star Wars production.

They found the answer with Ukraine-based tech company Respeecher, who’s team combined Jones’ signed-off archival recordings with their proprietary AI algorithm to create new dialogues. Wood added that the AI components added an “elusive human touch” that kept the age-old audios synthetically alive and worked towards eternalizing the voice we all know and love.

While Jones’ step back meant that he couldn’t be as directly involved as he once was, he still helped bring his character to life in Obi-Wan Kenobi as a “benevolent godfather” who guided the team’s depiction of the dark side villain.

Amid war, Lucasfilm was delicate in handling their requests, but Respeecher’s attitude was inspiring: “Let’s work, let’s work in the face of this adversity, let’s persevere.”

Respeecher CEO and Co-Founder Alex Serdiuk told Vanity Fair, “We create places to work for people, we create jobs, we pay them money, we contribute to the Ukrainian economy, and that’s quite meaningful”. He emphasized how Obi-Wan Kenobi could provide a fleeting movement of celebration for Ukraine’s resilience as a united country of people who support one another to continue to get up and go to work every day. He hoped this venture would help the world hear about Ukraine’s stoic determination.

As for ‘altering the deal‘, AI voice cloning technology will not always be limited to Respeecher’s labs. As with much of the Metaverse’s pillar technologies, the world is catching up, and it’s likely only a matter of time before these galactic tyrant-inspired capabilities will no longer be in a galaxy far, far away. 

Happy retirement, James Earl Jones. It seems that Artificial Intelligence is now the ‘master‘ – and a most fitting way to carry on the legacy of the world’s most infamous cybernetically-augmented human. And as for Ukraine? May the force be with you.

Article written by Hannah Clayton, Exarta.

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