Adobe at its recent MAX 2016 conference for creative professionals demonstrated an experimental technology that’s sure to stir up its fair share of controversy.
Known internally as VoCo and currently in development with Princeton University, the technology in question can be best described as Photoshop for audio. As Adobe developer Zeyu Jin showcases in the clip above, you can rearrange the order of spoken words and literally put words in someone’s mouth to make it sound as if they said something that never actually happened.
The current iteration of the technology needs roughly 20 minutes of dialog from a person in order to recreate their voice. Given the proliferation of audiobooks, podcasts, vlogs and so on, finding enough material to feed the program – especially if the target is a celebrity, public figure or social media influencer – would be trivial.
It’s easy to imagine how technology of this nature could be used in all sorts of unethical or nefarious manners but according to Jin, the development team has researched how to prevent forgery (likening it to watermarking for images).
As for legitimate uses, Adobe said in a companion blog post that when doing voiceover, dialogue and narration work, it’d be nice to have the option to edit or insert a few words without the hassle of recreating the recording environment or bringing the artist back in for a follow-up session.
Adobe hasn’t yet said when or even if the technology will one day make its way into a consumer-facing product. If it does, however, we’ll have to condition ourselves to be skeptical of any audio we listen to (just as we do today with images thanks to Photoshop).