How many of us have never listened to a podcast? The reports published by the audio streaming platforms provide a clear answer: few. A growing sector, which like any other aims to reach an ever-increasing number of users and customers. Voice Translation, the latest innovation in Spotify’s headquarters, aims precisely at this common goal, by translating podcasts thanks to artificial intelligence and speech synthesis.
Context: Podcasts are experiencing an extraordinary expansion. These episodes, often focused on specific topics, engaging stories, insights and worldwide news are gaining popularity at a surprising rate.
Versatility is one of the main characteristics of this content. They can cover a wide range of topics, from travel to technology, from health to business, making them accessible to an ever-wider audience.
In addition, the accessibility and portability of podcast listening platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts (just to name a few), allow users to listen these episodes anywhere and anytime, according to their daily routines.
Those who follow our publications are well aware of the fundamental importance of linguistic accessibility in any field.
Breaking down language barriers is the primary goal of any language service providers around the world. In fact, we can easily affirm that one of the biggest challenges of our time is precisely to allow correct communication between people from different realities and languages-cultures.
And accessibility it’s exactly the founding element of this new project by Spotify.
Artificial intelligence meets podcasts
The latest news from the world of big tech came from Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, which presented in a Tweet the Voice Translation project:
“Podcasters – what if I told you could offer your pod to any listener around the world, in their own local language but still keep it in your own voice? That’s the pilot we’re launching! It’s called Voice Translation and using AI, translates podcasts episodes into alternate languages, all in the podcaster’s voice”.
Now, this feature is only available for three episodes of three different podcasts, but the responses on social media have already sparked a debate. Between those who see Voice Translation as a further step forward (or back) towards a dystopian and impersonal future, and those who instead loudly acclaim this latest innovation.
In the meantime, we can just remember the dangers of unsupervised machine translation and express the doubt, shared by many, about the quality of the translated content if the podcasters use a highly informal and familiar language, or in contrast, a highly specialised one.
As also reported by Slator:
“A jargon-filed, expert-targeted podcast like SlatorPod, for example, would be a challenge for any AI let alone an off-the-shelf, non-fine-tuned one”.
Maybe, the disclaimer inserted at the beginning of the test episodes, in which the use of artificial intelligence for translation and speech synthesis is made explicit, aims precisely to protect service providers from the possible negative implications of this new technology.
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