Text-to-speech: is it the future of voice over?

3 min read

Is the increasing popularity of artificial intelligence-driven, text-to-speech (TTS) voice overs starting to make you wonder whether you should still consider hiring a professional voice actor to narrate your online videos or eLearning material?

Well, let’s discuss it!

Text-to-speech: woman holding megaphone
Image: Shutterstock

First of all, much of the currently available video production software that enables avid social networkers to create effective quick vlogs and Instagram videos, includes some form of TTS. That said, the options available to you can be frustrating because they’re somewhat limited in scope. For that reason, it might not be the best choice either for longer-form video work, or hard-sell commercials . So depending on your business, and the purpose of the voice over, TTS may not serve you well.

What is text-to-speech exactly?

Text-to-speech is an assistive technology that synthesizes speech artificially. By doing so, it produces a spoken version of a virtual document or text that mimics human speech. It’s quick, cost-effective, and very controllable. It’s the most effective way to reach people with reading, vision-based, or learning disabilities. (Most current computers and mobile devices have it built in to the operating system). It’s also a smart way to reach people who are better auditory perceivers.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

 

But it still fails to address one criterion a voice actor satisfies: true emotion and soulfully nuanced delivery. These elements are required to reach out to and fully engage people.

Nevertheless, more and more video production applications are making it easy to create material online. With text-to-speech (either built-in or stand-alone ) being both accessible and increasingly affordable, usage is skyrocketing.

Countless examples of text-to-speech software that do voice overs abound. Natural Readers and Claro software are two good, and very popular examples.

Text-to-speech has several advantages when compared to booking a voice actor.

The pros of text-to-speech from a business perspective:

It reduces manpower

Text-to-speech software reduces the need to hire humans to do the job. So, an organization’s manpower can focus on other parts of the business.

Consistency rules:

Having an automated voice over means having a consistent voice over. This allows for the customer base to connect and relate to one voice, which automatically creates better customer relationships.

It is cost effective:

Using text-to-speech software is more cost-effective than hiring a professional voice actor. Hiring a professional involves costs associated with hiring, editing, and often re-recording files to get a perfect voice over. Usage fees apply. Using software eliminates all these extra charges.

Time economizing: 

Finding the right voice actor can be time-consuming. Whereas using a text-to-speech software helps economize all of that time. ReadSpeaker is one of the many online text-to-speech converters pioneering in this art.

Text-to-speech from an education perspective

Text-to-speech: woman watching a lecture on a laptop screen
Image: Shutterstock

 

As already mentioned, text-to-speech voice over provides learning to people with learning and reading disabilities. This way, people have a consistent voice reading out their material, which helps them perceive and understand what they’re studying.

Text-to-speech conversion of study material also improves the perception of concepts to auditory-focused perceivers.

The cons of text-to-speech software

A lack of tone and emotion:  

The whole idea behind converting text into speech with a traditional voice over is to provide an experience and not just information.

An automated voice often lacks modulation, intonation, inflection, and nuance. These are all necessities for conveying emotion.

The inability of right pronunciation:

An automated voice isn’t likely to suitably render the varied dialects and pronunciations of different words like human beings can. Consequently, this might inhibit a large group of people from understanding the automated voice. By its nature, rendered words are also often clipped. This makes articulation complex and comprehension difficult.

Subjectivity of thought: 

The brilliance of the human mind is in its subjectivity – thoughts vary from person to person. Thus, the way information is relayed is simply missing from software.

Hiring a voice actor

 

Text-to-speech: voice actress in front of a microphone
Image: Shutterstock

Sounding natural is all but vital when converting text into speech. This is particularly true in an advertising environment. An emotional appeal, such as a call-to-action, is likely to fall flat if it’s not a flesh-and-blood human being voicing it.

In the corporate world, the human voice can create a bridge, a solid connection between people, thereby strengthening the bond between the business and its customers.

In eLearning, the voice of a real human being gives people a better learning experience. A talented voice actor will provide a captivating delivery, thereby sounding like a teacher who is passionate about their subject.

According to this article on the eLearning Industry, having a pro voice actor doing the voice over for the study material improves the learning process by a mile.

Professional voice actors know how to engage an audience and keep that audience focused. Professionals uses inflection and tone to change what they’re saying for maximum impact.

Similarly, hiring a professional to do your brand videos — rather than a machine — builds trust because it not only humanizes your company, but ends up personifying it.

In conclusion

So, will voice actors become redundant when technology is eventually able to replicate everything a believable voice requires?

Maybe. Maybe not. Nobody knows for sure.

Up to now, plenty of companies have tried to achieve human-like emotion through AI-driven text-to-speech voice conversions and have failed. What we do know is that the feeling and emotion brought about when we hear another human being is not the same as when we listen to a replica of one.

In the final analysis, your customers will be the judge.

Enough said!

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