As a voice artist for the past 20+ years, much of that time voicing technology devices (as heard in this video of the original Ford Sync), it’s become an interesting landscape of voices and machines and the internet of things as of the writing of this post.
While I was one of the first voices to be used en-mass in devices in the U.S., I have no idea where my voice may live in the current time period. I do know, that we’ve taken a few steps back in voice, and some steps forward.
Working at Tellme Networks, the focus was on quality of audio and sound and voice, something that’s been replicated in Alexa’s voice for their ‘echo‘, and with Google Home and with Siri in Apple devices. But, for the most part, the mass of voice systems that are now being distributed across the globe, are less than stellar sounding, full of robotic sound and tones.
This isn’t a bad thing. It shows how accustomed the public has become to robotic voices and how they’ve become used to using them to navigate the new information era. When I became the Voice of Tellme, it was during a time when scores of people were being laid off from AT&T and Ma Bell was breaking up and breaking down. I had a few moments of angry people at parties ask me why I was becoming part of the problem, causing all these layoffs. I had nightmares about it, but I knew in the end, the quality of voice counted, and that this wave was coming, like it or not.
I fully agree with Gary Vaynerchuck, that the rise of audio branding is real. I feel like it was real once, before 9/11, and then for a short while after… it fell away for the sake of user adoption, and now it’s becoming real again with the huge adoption of devices using voiceover interaction. And, combined with artificial intelligence our information rich world, will be elevated exponentially.
By the nature of human desire for connection, I think the quality of voices will come back, along with celebrity and character voices that will be able to talk with you at home, to tell you how they wrote that song… how they made that movie… how they made those millions… how they survived divorce… how to not be lonely.
Voice is one of the last human commodities in the landscape of AR/VR and entertainment. There is a unique way that we can pitch, inflect and use our voices, that cannot be created on-the-fly so easily, like animation or other visual elements.
And, I hope what that means is that more people find a human ‘voice’ connection somehow, through all the automation and devices. Let’s find a way to create more happiness and meaning in our lives, with each other, instead of automating our human elements away.