Cloning voices: It is now possible to imitate people’s speech patterns easily and precisely. That could bring trouble. 现在机器可以轻松又准确地模仿人类讲话，问题或许也随之而来。
UTTER 160 or so French or English phrases into a phoneapp developed by CandyVoice, a new Parisian company, and the app’s software will reassemble tiny slices of those sounds to enunciate, in a plausible simulacrumof your owndulcet(优美的) tones, whatever typed words it is subsequently fed. In effect, the app has cloned your voice. The result still sounds a little synthetic but CandyVoice’s boss, Jean-Luc Crébouw, reckons advances in the firm’s algorithms will render it increasingly natural. Similar software for English and four widely spoken Indian languages, developed under the name of Festvox, by Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute, is also available. And Baidu, a Chinese internet giant, says it has software that needs only 50 sentences to simulate a person’s voice.
Until recently, voice cloning—orvoice banking, as it was then known—was abespoke【别老用DIY】industry which served those at risk of losing the power of speech to cancer or surgery. Creating a synthetic copy of a voice was a lengthy and pricey process. It meant recording many phrases, each spoken many times, with different emotional emphases and in different contexts (statement, question, command and so forth), in order to cover all possible pronunciations. Acapela Group, a Belgian voice-banking company, charges €3,000 ($3,200) for a process that requires eight hours of recording. Other firms charge more and require a speaker to spend days in a sound studio.
Not any more. Software exists that can store sliversof recorded speech a mere fivemillisecondslong, each annotatedwith a precise pitch. These can be shuffled together to make new words, and tweakedindividually so that they fit harmoniously into their new sonic homes. This is much cheaper than conventional voice banking, and permits novel uses to be developed. With little effort, a wife can lend her voice to her blind husband’s screen-reading software. A boss can give his to workplace robots. A Facebook user can listen to a post apparentlyread aloud by its author. Parents often away on business can personalise their children’s wirelessly connected talking toys. And so on. At least, that is the vision of Gershon Silbert, boss of VivoText, a voice-cloning firm in Tel Aviv.
More troubling, any voice—including that of a stranger—can be cloned if decent recordings are available on YouTube or elsewhere. Researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, led by Nitesh Saxena, were able to use Festvox to clone voices based on only five minutes of speech retrieved online. When tested against voice-biometrics software like that used by many banks to block unauthorised access to accounts, more than 80% of the fake voices trickedthe computer. Alan Black, one of Festvox’s developers, reckons systems that rely on voice-ID software are now“deeply, fundamentally insecure”.