Synthetic Speech Startup WellSaid Labs Raises $10M
Seattle-based synthetic speech technology startup WellSaid Labs has closed a $10 million Series A funding round led by FUSE. WellSaid offers brands and enterprise clients a text-to-speech platform performed by their choice of artificially generated voices and styles, a service in increasing demand as the synthetic voices improve.
WellSaid’s collection of voice avatars can read out scripts, performing monologues or multi-voice dialogues in whatever appropriate style, gender, and mood are appropriate. The AI can be taught to pronounce unusual or branded terms correctly, and the audio can be fine-tuned to add or eliminate pauses or even switch out voices. If none of WellSaid’s voices seem quite right, the startup works with the client to design and program a new one, requiring a recording of a few hours of the voice the client wants. Since the company began in 2018 at the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence as a research project, WellSaid has continually refined how human-like its artificial voices sound. WellSaid claimed their new funding round was oversubscribed, with participation from Voyager, Qualcomm Ventures, and GoodFriends. The money will expand the size of the team of about a dozen and fund more research and development for the technology underlying the platform. Most immediately, the startup is planning to upgrade the variety of texts it can service and shorten the time to create the voice.
“We’ve added AI Voice to the toolkit of thousands of content creators and their teams,” WellSaid Labs CEO Matt Hocking said. “Our human-parity AI voice can be produced faster than real-time, and updated on-demand. Opening up new and exciting opportunities to ‘add voice’ where never before perceived possible. AI voice easily ensures every production can be created and updated efficiently at scale.”
As synthetic voices improve, companies offering variations on the tech have mushroomed to service advertising, movies, video games, and other verticals. Plenty of startups like Lovo, Resemble AI, and Supertone are raising funding rounds and partnering with celebrities to market synthetic voices. Other examples of the advances in the field include how Replica Studios created a desktop app to speed up integrating synthetic speech into films and video games and the way digital voice interface creator ReadSpeaker is augmenting SoundHound’s Houndify voice AI platform to sound more lifelike. The advances in synthetic speech technology mean even free, limited tools can produce impressive results like this fan-made trailer for Skryim voiced solely by AI.