AI voice clones are already being deployed in podcasts and video games, but how long before they can be used directly by the general public? Probably sooner than you think, with Samsung today announcing a feature for its Bixby mobile assistant which allows users to clone their voice to answer phone calls. The idea is that if someone calls you but you can’t answer out loud, you can type in an answer and it will be read aloud in a simulacrum of your voice.
A few caveats: This feature is currently only available in Korean as the Bixby Custom Voice Creator app for a small number of Samsung handsets (the new Galaxy S23, S23+ and S23 Ultra), meaning we haven’t been able to test it ourselves. The voice quality may be terrible and the response time too slow to be useful. But cloning voices to answer calls is well within the scope of current technology, with AI tools capable of creating realistic copies of voices from just a few minutes of audio.
Answering audio calls via a text interface isn’t new either. On Samsung devices, the feature is known as Bixby Text Call and was introduced with the company’s One UI 5 skin of Android. It was previously only accessible in Korean, but is now available in English with a generic artificial voice (and only with version 5.1 of One UI). Google offers a similar service called Call screen which allows you to respond to potential spam calls using an automated voice. Though Google’s service only lets you choose from a list of generic answers instead of typing custom answers.
It is not hard to imagine these functions becoming more complex and automated in the near future. After all, you could easily link a text-to-speech voice clone of yourself to a chatbot like ChatGPT or (if you’re feeling particularly chaotic) Bing from Microsoft. Samsung itself promises that the user-generated voices will be “compatible with Samsung apps other than phone calls” in the future, although it’s not clear what that means.
You could ask such a bot to summarize the content of your conversation or simply waste a spammer’s time if you feel petty. Tech companies have long promised that AI assistants can perform this kind of administration on our behalf, and by creating a voice clone of yourself and setting these tasks through a chatbot, this pitch could actually become a reality.
We’ll be watching how this technology develops and will try to test out Bixby’s voice features ourselves when we can. But if you pick up the phone any time soon, you may have to ask yourself, is that really a human on the other end of the line?