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Google DeepMind's WaveNet gets closer to replicating human speech

AI assistants are far from sounding like real humans. AI speech sounds very robotic, something that is vastly being improved by WaveNet, Deepmind's new AI that can mimic human speech.

Published onSeptember 11, 2016

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Google has been known to be fond of artificial intelligence, thanks to their various attempts to improve such technologies. The Search Giant has been directly involved with chatbots. They are also involved with AI robots that can write eerie post-modern poetry. And the company knows your fear of a robot apocalypse, so they have also created a system that would stop these machines from causing any harm.

But despite all these improvements, AI assistants are far from sounding like real humans. AI speech sounds very robotic, something that is vastly being improved by WaveNet, Deepmind’s new AI that can mimic human speech. It is not perfect, but is 50% better than current technologies. In fact, the thing is so smart it can create its own music, after learning various classical piano songs.

Google's DeepMind AI wants to make your smartphone virtual assistant better

You can listen to some samples in DeepMind’s blog post. They are really quite impressive, but you likely won’t be seeing this hit the market soon, mostly because it requires too much computing power.

Researchers usually avoid modelling raw audio because it ticks so quickly: typically 16,000 samples per second or more, with important structure at many time-scales. Building a completely autoregressive model, in which the prediction for every one of those samples is influenced by all previous ones (in statistics-speak, each predictive distribution is conditioned on all previous observations), is clearly a challenging task.

For those out of the loop, Deepmind was acquired by Google in 2014 for $500 million. The Google-owned company’s system tries to mimic how the human mind works. It can be trained to learn information and has been known to beat Go champions, a great accomplishment considering this has been long known to be a distinctly human game.

Only time will tell how this will all pan out, but for now we can keep our eyes open to see how it all unfolds. Maybe soon enough you will be able to have actual conversations with your devices!

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