As far as I know, John Patrick Lowrie never stepped into Valve’s recording booth to have The Sniper re-enact old Vine clips. But thanks to a free online machine-learning tool, folks are making everyone from TF2’s marksman to The Stanley Parable’s narrator and beyond say whatever the hell they want.
Spotted by Kotaku over the weekend, 15.ai is a deep-learning text-to-speech tool trained on a library of audio clips for dozens of characters. It’s all very fascinating to read about, from its use “deepmoji” systems to assign emotions to the way the algorithm scrapes the internet for online slang. But all you need to know is this: type in a line or two, pick a character, and the system will swiftly deliver a generated clip of, I don’t know, the TF2 Heavy replacing a former US president in Home Alone 2.
Obviously, some characters fare a little better than others. GLaDOS is a natural fit, what with her voice sounding like computer-generated speech by design. But for all the hours of banked audio given to The Stanley Parable’s narrator, the algorithm simply can’t capture Kevan Brighting’s whimsically droll intonation.
That hasn’t stopped people going wild online, though, as any search for 15.ai on Twitter will quickly demonstrate. After all, a little robotic voice-acting isn’t going to stop the cast of Team Fortress 2 taking over an episode of Thomas The Tank Engine.
With https://t.co/FWZFI2GSz8, I have redubbed the scene where Gordon crashes into Kirk Ronan. Soldier reprises his narrator duties, while Spy voices Sir Topham Hatt and Heavy voices Gordon.A wonderful thanks to @Oliver11GWR for the A Better View for Gordon dubbing track. pic.twitter.com/Kq6m3gLLd1January 13, 2021
Or how about the same gang of mercs bickering over a round of Among Us?
Sniper is Sus (made with https://t.co/lrgl2qVEq4) pic.twitter.com/kagZSbsF79January 11, 2021
The TF2 gang are clear favourites among folks making these edits, and I’d be surprised if the Source Filmmaker scene doesn’t go hog-wild plugging AI-generated lines into their vids. But the tool’s character roster isn’t just limited to videogames. SpongeBob SquarePants’ shrill, nasally voice works shockingly well, and the undersea pineapple-dweller has some shocking things to say about the city of Baltimore.
You won’t have as much luck with all characters, mind. Gordon Freeman and Chell won’t speak no matter how hard you try, nor will the cast of Undertale or Celeste ever vocalise beyond frantic bleeps. But the tool’s sole creator plans to add more voices from Sonic, Mass Effect, Fallout, The Witcher and more, and is currently taking contributions if you have any favourites you’d like to add.