AI voice clones are already being used in podcasts and video games, but how long will it be before they can be used by the general public? Maybe sooner than we think, because Samsung announced a feature for its Bixby assistant that allows users to clone their voice to answer phone calls. The idea is that if someone calls you but you can’t answer, you can type the answer and it will be read by Bixby using your voice.
This feature is currently only available in Korean in the Bixby Custom VoiceCreator extension for a small number of Samsung smartphones (new Galaxy S23, S23+ and S23 Ultra). The voice quality may be terrible and the response time too slow, but voice cloning to answer calls is well within the modern technology, artificial intelligence tools are able to create realistic voice copies in just a few minutes of audio recording.
Answering audio calls via a text interface is not new either. On Samsung devices, this feature is known as Bixby Text Call and was introduced with the One UI 5 Android skin. Previously only available in Korean, it is now available in English with artificial voice (and only with version 5.1 of One UI).
Google offers a similar service called Call Screen, which allows you to answer potential spam calls with an automated voice. However, the Google service only allows you to choose from a list of standard answers, and not to enter your own.
It’s not hard to imagine these functions becoming more intelligent and automated in the near future. Eventually, you’ll be able to easily connect your voice clone to a chatbot like ChatGPT or Microsoft Bing. Samsung itself promises that in the future user-generated voices will be “compatible with other Samsung apps beyond phone calls” – it’s not entirely clear what that means.
Technology companies have long promised that AI assistants will be able to perform such administration on our behalf. But it can also create problems. Google promised similar functionality with its Duplex AI voice calls, introduced in 2018 as a way to automatically book restaurant tables using an AI-generated voice.
But the reaction to the technology has been mixed, with many criticizing it as unethical and saying it creates more work for people taking calls. (Google’s current ambitions for the technology are unclear, as the company has shut down the web version of Duplex at the end of 2022.) There are also malicious uses of voice clones, from hate speech and harassment to fraud.
So when you pick up the phone in the near future, you may have to ask yourself: is the person you’re talking to really human?