OpenAI’s New Tool Can Mimic Anyone’s Voice; Here’s Why It’s Scary

6 min read


Synthetic voices are artificial computer-generated voices that can sound just like real people. This new AI voice cloning technology uses advanced programs to create very natural-sounding speech. However, there are risks of synthetic voices being misused to spread misinformation, scam people through fake voices, or impersonate others without permission. OpenAI has recently built a synthetic voice tool, called Voice Engine, that focuses on the ethical and responsible development and deployment of the technology. This article explains the various applications and technology behind synthetic voices while exploring OpenAI’s Voice Engine.

OpenAI's New Tool Can Mimic Anyone's Voice; Here's Why It's Scary

What Are Synthetic Voices?

Synthetic voices, also known as artificial voices or text-to-speech (TTS) voices, are computer-generated voices that can produce human-like speech from written text. These voices are created using advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms to mimic the natural cadence, intonation, and pronunciation of human speech. Synthetic voices have a wide range of potential applications, including providing reading assistance, translating audio content into multiple languages, and creating personalized responses for various industries.

How Are Synthetic Voices Created?

Synthetic voices are created using a combination of deep-learning models and audio samples. OpenAI’s Voice Engine, for example, uses a small-scale preview model that takes text input and a single 15-second audio sample to generate natural-sounding speech that closely resembles the original speaker. This process involves training the AI model on a diverse range of speech patterns and linguistic nuances to ensure that the synthetic voices sound realistic and expressive.

The Voice Engine model has been used to power preset voices available in ChatGPT Voice and Read Aloud, enabling the translation of content, such as videos and podcasts, into multiple languages while preserving the native accent of the original speaker. Additionally, the technology has been tested for applications in education, providing reading assistance to non-readers and children through natural-sounding, emotive voices representing a wider range of speakers than what’s possible with preset voices.

How Are Synthetic Voices Created?

OpenAI has emphasized the importance of developing synthetic voices safely and responsibly. This includes implementing safeguards to prevent the creation of voices that are too similar to prominent figures and ensuring that the original speaker knowingly adds their voice to the service. The company is also exploring ways to detect fake audio and establishing ethical guidelines for its use. As a first step, OpenAI has started discussions with policymakers, researchers, developers, and creatives to address the challenges and opportunities of synthetic voices and to promote a responsible approach to their deployment.

Benefits of Synthetic Voices

Synthetic voices offer a range of advantages that can improve accessibility, communication, and learning experiences. Here we explore three key areas where this technology holds significant promise.

Applications and benefits of AI-generated synthetic voices

Creating Educational Materials That Sound Like a Native Speaker

Language learning can be significantly enhanced by using synthetic voices that sound like native speakers. This technology can create personalized learning materials for students, allowing them to practice listening comprehension with different accents and dialects. Imagine textbooks or e-learning platforms that can read aloud in various languages with natural-sounding voices. This can be particularly beneficial for students who are visually impaired or struggle with traditional reading methods.

Furthermore, synthetic voices can be used to create culturally specific learning materials. For example, historical figures from different countries could be “voiced” in their native languages, providing a more immersive and authentic learning experience. This can be especially valuable for students studying foreign cultures and languages.

Translating Videos and Podcasts

Synthetic voices have the potential to revolutionize the way we translate video and audio content.  Currently, dubbing videos and translating podcasts often require hiring voice actors and can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Synthetic voices, however, can efficiently translate audio into different languages while maintaining a natural-sounding voice. This could open up educational resources and entertainment to a wider global audience, breaking down language barriers and promoting cultural exchange.

For instance, an educational documentary produced in English could be automatically translated and narrated in Spanish using a synthetic voice that sounds like a native speaker. Similarly, a popular science podcast could be made accessible to a wider audience by offering translations in multiple languages with natural-sounding narration.

Helping People Who Are Non-verbal Communicate

Synthetic voices can empower individuals with speech impairments to communicate more effectively. People who’ve lost their ability to speak due to illness or injury can potentially regain a voice through this technology. Synthetic voices can be customized to match the individual’s preferred tone and speech patterns, allowing them to express themselves clearly and confidently.

This technology can also be a valuable tool for people who have never been able to speak due to conditions like cerebral palsy or ALS. Synthetic voices can provide them with a new way to interact with the world and express their thoughts and feelings.

By offering a natural-sounding and customizable voice output, synthetic voices have the potential to significantly improve the lives of people who are non-verbal.

Risks of Generating and Using Synthetic Voices

While synthetic voices offer exciting possibilities, it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential risks associated with this technology. Here are some key areas of concern:

1. Misinformation and Deepfakes

Synthetic voices can be used to create highly realistic audio forgeries, often referred to as “deepfakes.” Malicious actors could potentially use this technology to create fake news reports or impersonate public figures to spread misinformation. This could erode trust in the media and sow confusion among the public.

2. Voice Phishing and Fraud

Synthetic voices could be employed to launch sophisticated phishing scams. Imagine receiving a phone call that appears to be from your bank, with a voice that sounds convincing, like a customer service representative. This technology could make it more difficult to identify and avoid fraudulent attempts.

3. Identity Theft and Impersonation

The ability to clone voices raises concerns about identity theft. Synthetic voices could be used to impersonate someone over the phone to gain unauthorized access to personal information or financial accounts. This could pose a significant risk to individuals and businesses alike.

 Identity Theft and Impersonation using AI-generated synthetic voices | OpenAI Voice Engine

4. Erosion of Trust and Authenticity

The widespread use of synthetic voices could lead to a decline in trust in communication altogether. As the lines between real and artificial voices blur, it may become harder to determine the authenticity of information received through audio channels.

5. Unethical Use in Marketing and Advertising

Synthetic voices could be used in deceptive marketing practices. For example, a company might use a celebrity’s synthetic voice to endorse a product without their knowledge or consent. This could mislead consumers and erode trust in advertising.

OpenAI’s Responsible Synthetic Voice Development

OpenAI, the developer of this new voice cloning tool, acknowledges the potential risks and emphasizes its commitment to responsible development. Here are some steps they are taking to mitigate these risks:

  • Transparency and User Education: OpenAI is committed to transparency about the capabilities and limitations of its technology. They plan to educate users on how to identify synthetic voices and avoid falling victim to scams or misinformation.
  • Technical Safeguards: OpenAI is exploring technical safeguards that could help identify synthetically generated audio. This could involve embedding markers in the audio file or developing algorithms that can detect artificial speech patterns.
  • Collaboration and Regulation: OpenAI recognizes the need for collaboration with policymakers and industry leaders to develop ethical guidelines for the use of synthetic voices. Open discussions and potential regulations can help ensure this technology is used responsibly.


Synthetic voices are a cool new technology that can help make learning languages and translating audio easier. They also allow people who can’t speak to communicate with a voice of their own. However, we must be cautious of synthetic voices misused to spread fake information, scam people, or impersonate others without permission. OpenAI, the creator of Voice Engine, wants to make sure their AI tool and this technology are used responsibly. They are looking into ways to identify synthetic audio and talking to leaders about rules for using it ethically. As this technology improves, we must balance its amazing potential to aid communication while preventing harmful misuse through proper safeguards.

You can explore many more such AI tools and their applications here.


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