Spotify Acquires Synthetic Voice Startup Sonantic
Spotify has bought synthetic voice and video developer Sonantic for an undisclosed sum. Sonantic is best known for generating a deepfake of Val Kilmer’s voice, most recently used in the new Top Gun film to give his Iceman character new lines despite Kilmer’s tracheotomy for cancer treatment.
Sonantic’s AI learns from audio clips how to produce a realistic-sounding human voice mimicking the sounds it hears. The resulting model can read out any text and Sonantic’s platform can incorporate non-speech sounds and varied tones to give emotion to the speech. The startup demonstrated a “flirty” example this past Valentine’s Day, showcasing a collection of what it called coy, teasing, and flirty voices. The company has worked to provide synthetic voices for several video games and films
“We’re really excited about the potential to bring Sonantic’s AI voice technology onto the Spotify platform and create new experiences for our users,” Spotify personalization vice president Ziad Sultan said. “This integration will enable us to engage users in a new and even more personalized way.”
Spotify hasn’t said specifically how it will incorporate Sonantic’s platform, but it could be useful for describing audio content or making recommendations for those not looking at a screen. It could even become the basis of a catalog of custom voices for the “Hey Spotify” voice assistant, though presumably, that would end its relationship with ReadSpeaker, the synthetic voice startup currently powering the voice assistant. Synthetic voices could also be a major boon for Spotify’s metaverse ambitions, which include buying an island on the Roblox platform named Spotify Island. The streaming service plans to use its unreal estate to connect visitors with musical artists and performances while offering games, virtual merchandise, and other activities.
“We’re looking forward to joining Spotify and continuing to build exciting voice experiences,” Sonantic co-founders Zeena Qureshi and John Flynn said. “We believe in the power voice has and its ability to foster a deeper connection with listeners around the world, and we know we can be better than ever on the world’s largest audio platform.”