Spotify acquires Sonantic, a startup specializing in AI voices. For what?
Looking for growth and new services, Spotify suspects Sonantic has potential: founded in 2018, the British AI startup specializes in machine-generated, realistic-sounding voices.
Val Kilmer was Sonantic's lucky find
Sonantic gained international fame thanks to a prominent customer: Val Kilmer's management ordered an authentic AI-generated voice from the company for the actor, who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014 and lost his voice after an operation. The AI voice did Kilmer's dubbing in Top Gun: Maverick, among other films.
In addition to Kilmer, Sonantic's AI voices also dub video games. Existing customers will continue to be served after the acquisition. The acquisition cost is not known. It's probably not a big deal: previous investors gave less than $3 million to Sonantic.
Is the Spotify Assistant coming?
In the acquisition announcement, Spotify hints at possible use cases for Sonantic's technology. The company talks about more personalized experiences and several potential opportunities for text-to-speech capabilities on its platform.
As a specific example, Spotify cites app use in scenarios where interaction via voice assistance is more practical than via touchscreen - such as during a car ride. "We believe that over the long term, high-quality voice will be important to growing our share of listening," Spotify writes.
Sonantic recently showed a demo for a flirty AI voice that is almost indistinguishable from a human voice. In the context of the demo, the startup talks about two breakthroughs: conveying subtle emotions and perfecting non-speech sounds like laughter and breathing.
Such an authentic voice would be a perfect fit for a voice assistant for a music and podcast service. But maybe Spotify will go one step further: Sonantic is known for its ability to authentically recreate the voices of celebrities. Perhaps the voice of Kurt Cobain will present a playlist of his favorite songs in the future.