Listen to New Google AI Program Talk Like a Human and Write Music

Google's DeepMind creates AI that blows away existing speech synthesizers. 

Google-owned artificial intelligence company DeepMind presented a deep neural network that generates amazingly human-like speech. Called WaveNet, this AI makes a significant advancement over existing speech synthesizers. What’s more, it can write pretty good classical music. 


DeepMind is a British company, previously known for creating machine-learning AI software that beat the world champion of the notoriously-intricate game Go. Machine learning allows computer systems to teach themselves and make predictions based on gathered data.

The company claims that its WaveNet creates speech that can mimic any human voice and closes the gap with human speech performance by more than 50%. Google’s 500-person blind test study found people rating WaveNet’s English speech at a 4.21 (5 being realistic human speech), while concatenate speech got a 3.86 and parametric an even worse 3.67.

WaveNet also generated speech in Mandarin, which got similar results.

 

They did this by re-imagining currently used text-to-speech (TTS) processes. The two most common being concatenative TTS, used by Apple’s Siri, which involves pre-recorded fragments of speech, and parametric TTS, which sounds even less natural, getting speech generated through computer algorithms.

What’s different about WaveNet is that its can directly model the raw waveform of an audio signal, an extremely complicated task that required a novel neural network. WaveNet learns from voice recordings, then on its own creates speech. This independence also allows the program to generate other kinds of audio, like music.

 

To bolster their claim, DeepMind released some samples, comparing their WaveNets with samples made by concatenate and parametric TTS. You be the judge. 

Parametric:

parametric-1.wav

parametric-2.wav

And now, this is what WaveNet generated:

wavenet-1.wav

wavenet-2.wav

After it was trained on a dataset of classical piano music, WaveNet produced these intriguing musical creations of its own:

sample_1.wav

sample_2.wav

sample_3.wav

What are the implications of this new tech? While it also means our eventual robotic overlords should being easier to talk to, virtual AI assistants like Siri or Cortana could benefit sooner. Google isn’t promising this is headed straight to such applications, however, as WaveNet requires serious computing power.

This achievement shows again the potential of DeepMind's neural networks which can and are being used for fraud and spam detection, handwriting recognition, image search, translation and other tasks.

DeepMind also made a number of Google's data centers use energy more efficiently, slashing its electricity bill. Previously, DeepMind trained its AI to beat dozens of video games.

In a very Google move, the paper on WaveNet is available on Google Drive here.

Want to know more about DeepMind? Check out this video:

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

Videos
  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less