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September 23, 2019

Is It Live or Is It Memorex Redux?

Filed under: Electronics — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

Remember those commercials of yesteryear where Ella Fitzgerald’s voice recorded on Memorex tape could shatter a glass? Well, fast forward to the computer age where software can now synthesize your voice or anyone else’s. Sounds neat, huh? Except for one thing… this technology is now being used to scam people.

Recently, a UK energy company executive got a phone call from the CEO of its parent company in Germany requesting an urgent transfer of nearly a quarter of a million dollars to a foreign supplier. The UK executive followed the boss’ order and quickly sent the money. What that executive didn’t know was that the person on the telephone was really a scammer using a computer-generated voice to mimic the voice, tone and accent of the real CEO. Here is the full story.

How good is this technology? Here are two samples from Lyrebird, one company that is developing it.

Listen to the real recorded female voice first, and then the synthetic one.

Real female voice

Synthesized female

Now try the male voices:

real male voice

synthetic male voice

I think you will agree the synthesized voices sound virtually identical to the real ones. Imagine how using the reproduced voices could be coupled with artificial intelligence to make you believe you were having an actual conversation with the real person whose voice you recognize.

And if scammers use this technology, there won’t be any mouse print to warn you that the voice you are hearing is fake.

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  1. This is a truly alarming concern. We’re going to have to find effective ways of determining validity because between this and deepfakes we’re going to see entire videos fabricated as being real. It’s only a matter of time until this is used for political warfare as well.

    We’ll have to keep an eye on things like this, but combining this with AI getting closer and closer to beating the Turing test, we have a lot of new challenges to face.

    Comment by Joel — September 26, 2019 @ 9:47 am
  2. This is great! Now I can claim it was someone else not me who called in those hateful comments to a radio talk show. Ha, ha. Seriously though, I wonder if voice analyzing equipment can tell the difference? I would suspect so.

    Comment by Bob — September 26, 2019 @ 12:20 pm

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