Illness claimed her voice. AI created a replica in her phone (2024)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The voice Alexis “Lexi” Bogan had before last summer was exuberant.

She loved to belt out Taylor Swift and Zach Bryan ballads in the car. She laughed all the time — even while corralling misbehaving preschoolers or debating politics with friends over a backyard fire pit. In high school, she was a soprano in the chorus.

Then that voice was gone.

Doctors in August removed a life-threatening tumor lodged near the back of her brain. When the breathing tube came out a month later, Bogan had trouble swallowing and strained to say “hi” to her parents. Months of rehabilitation aided her recovery, but her speech is still impaired. Friends, strangers and her own family members struggle to understand what she is trying to tell them.

  • Illness claimed her voice. AI created a replica in her phone (1)
  • Illness claimed her voice. AI created a replica in her phone (2)
  • Illness claimed her voice. AI created a replica in her phone (3)

In April, the 21-year-old got her old voice back. Not the real one, but a voice clone generated byartificial intelligencethat she can summon from a phone app. Trained on a 15-second time capsule of her teenage voice — sourced from a cooking demonstration video she recorded for a high school project — her synthetic but remarkably real-sounding AI voice can now say almost anything she wants.

She types a few words or sentences into her phone and the app instantly reads it aloud.

“Hi, can I please get a grande iced brown sugar oat milk shaken espresso,” said Bogan’s AI voice as she held the phone out her car’s window at a Starbucks drive-thru.

Experts have warnedthat rapidly improving AI voice-cloning technology can amplify phone scams, disruptdemocratic electionsand violate the dignity of people — living or dead — who never consented to having their voice recreated to say things they never spoke.

It’s been used to producedeepfake robocallsto New Hampshire voters mimicking President Joe Biden. In Maryland,authorities recently chargeda high school athletic director with using AI to generate a fake audio clip of the school’s principal making racist remarks.

But Bogan and a team of doctors at Rhode Island’s Lifespan hospital group believe they’ve found a use that justifies the risks. Bogan is one of the first people — the only one with her condition — who have been able to recreate a lost voice with OpenAI’s new Voice Engine. Some other AI providers, such as the startup ElevenLabs, have tested similar technology for people with speech impediments and loss — including a lawyer who now uses her voice clone in the courtroom.

“We’re hoping Lexi’s a trailblazer as the technology develops,” said Dr. Rohaid Ali, a neurosurgery resident at Brown University’s medical school and Rhode Island Hospital. Millions of people with debilitating strokes, throat cancer or neurogenerative diseases could benefit, he said.

“We should be conscious of the risks, but we can’t forget about the patient and the social good,” said Dr. Fatima Mirza, another resident working on the pilot. “We’re able to help give Lexi back her true voice and she’s able to speak in terms that are the most true to herself.”

Mirza and Ali, who are married, caught the attention of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI because of their previous research project at Lifespan using the AI chatbot to simplify medical consent forms for patients. The San Francisco company reached out while on the hunt earlier this year for promising medical applications for its new AI voice generator.

Bogan was still slowly recovering from surgery. The illness started last summer with headaches, blurry vision and a droopy face, alarming doctors at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence. They discovered a vascular tumor the size of a golf ball pressing on her brain stem and entangled in blood vessels and cranial nerves.

“It was a battle to get control of the bleeding and get the tumor out,” said pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Konstantina Svokos.

The 10-hour length of the surgery coupled with the tumor’s location and severity damaged Bogan’s tongue muscles and vocal cords, impeding her ability to eat and talk, Svokos said.

“It’s almost like a part of my identity was taken when I lost my voice,” Bogan said.

The feeding tube came out this year. Speech therapy continues, enabling her to speak intelligibly in a quiet room but with no sign she will recover the full lucidity of her natural voice.

“At some point, I was starting to forget what I sounded like,” Bogan said. “I’ve been getting so used to how I sound now.”

Whenever the phone rang at the family’s home in the Providence suburb of North Smithfield, she would push it over to her mother to take her calls. She felt she was burdening her friends whenever they went to a noisy restaurant. Her dad, who has hearing loss, struggled to understand her.

Back at the hospital, doctors were looking for a pilot patient to experiment with OpenAI’s technology.

“The first person that came to Dr. Svokos’ mind was Lexi,” Ali said. “We reached out to Lexi to see if she would be interested, not knowing what her response would be. She was game to try it out and see how it would work.”

Bogan had to go back a few years to find a suitable recording of her voice to “train” the AI system on how she spoke. It was a video in which she explained how to make a pasta salad.

Her doctors intentionally fed the AI system just a 15-second clip. Cooking sounds make other parts of the video imperfect. It was also all that OpenAI needed — an improvement over previous technology requiring much lengthier samples.

They also knew that getting something useful out of 15 seconds could be vital for any future patients who have no trace of their voice on the internet. A brief voicemail left for a relative might have to suffice.

When they tested it for the first time, everyone was stunned by the quality of the voice clone. Occasional glitches — a mispronounced word, a missing intonation — were mostly imperceptible. In April, doctors equipped Bogan with a custom-built phone app that only she can use.

“I get so emotional every time I hear her voice,” said her mother, Pamela Bogan, tears in her eyes.

“I think it’s awesome that I can have that sound again,” added Lexi Bogan, saying it helped “boost my confidence to somewhat where it was before all this happened.”

She now uses the app about 40 times a day and sends feedback she hopes will help future patients. One of her first experiments was to speak to the kids at the preschool where she works as a teaching assistant. She typed in “ha ha ha ha” expecting a robotic response. To her surprise, it sounded like her old laugh.

She’s used it at Target and Marshall’s to ask where to find items. It’s helped her reconnect with her dad. And it’s made it easier for her to order fast food.

Bogan’s doctors have started cloning the voices of other willing Rhode Island patients and hope to bring the technology to hospitals around the world. OpenAI said it is treading cautiously in expanding the use of Voice Engine, which is not yet publicly available.

A number of smaller AI startups already sell voice-cloning servicesto entertainment studiosor make them more widely available. Most voice-generation vendors say they prohibit impersonation or abuse, but they vary in how they enforce their terms of use.

“We want to make sure that everyone whose voice is used in the service is consenting on an ongoing basis,” said Jeff Harris, OpenAI’s lead on the product. “We want to make sure that it’s not used in political contexts. So we’ve taken an approach of being very limited in who we’re giving the technology to.”

Harris said OpenAI’s next step involves developing a secure “voice authentication” tool so that users can replicate only their own voice. That might be “limiting for a patient like Lexi, who had sudden loss of her speech capabilities,” he said. “So we do think that we’ll need to have high-trust relationships, especially with medical providers, to give a little bit more unfettered access to the technology.”

Bogan has impressed her doctors with her focus on thinking about how the technology could help others with similar or more severe speech impediments.

“Part of what she has done throughout this entire process is think about ways to tweak and change this,” Mirza said. “She’s been a great inspiration for us.”

While for now she must fiddle with her phone to get the voice engine to talk, Bogan imagines an AI voice engine that improves upon older remedies for speech recovery — such as the robotic-sounding electrolarynx or a voice prosthesis — in melding with the human body or translating words in real time.

She’s less sure about what will happen as she grows older and her AI voice continues to sound like she did as a teenager. Maybe the technology could “age” her AI voice, she said.

For now, “even though I don’t have my voice fully back, I have something that helps me find my voice again,” she said.

Illness claimed her voice. AI created a replica in her phone (2024)


Illness claimed her voice. AI created a replica in her phone? ›

Alexis Bogan, whose speech was impaired by a brain tumor, uses an AI powered smartphone app to create a audible drink order at a Starbucks drive-thru, April 29, 2024, in Lincoln, R.I. The voice Alexis "Lexi" Bogan had before last summer was exuberant.

What is the AI voice everyone is using? ›

Speechify is the #1 AI Voice Over Generator. Create human quality voice over recordings in real time. Narrate text, videos, explainers – anything you have – in any style. Looking for our Text to Speech Reader?

Is Voice Cloning legal? ›

Telemarketers who use voice-cloning technology in robocalls are now breaking the law–and you can sue them for it.

How do I turn someone's voice into AI? ›

Speechify AI Voice Cloning can clone anyones voice in seconds. All it takes is for the AI to listen to your voice for around 30 seconds. Once it samples a persons voice, it can then read lengthy documents, create podcasts and more in the voice it sampled.

Can AI mimic my voice? ›

Due to the recent advances in AI technology, software can clone a voice from a very small audio sample. Voice cloning can mimic the voice of your boss to instruct you to wire funds for a project and you make the transfer, not knowing it was a fake call.

Is it illegal to use AI voice? ›

The FCC announced the unanimous adoption of a Declaratory Ruling that recognizes calls made with AI-generated voices are "artificial" under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

Is Siri an AI voice? ›

Siri is Apple's voice-enabled virtual assistant powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and voice recognition. Using the commands "Siri" or "Hey Siri," you can activate Siri and ask it to perform various tasks, such as texting a friend, opening an app, pulling up a photo, or playing your favorite song.

What is the most popular AI voice? ›

5 Best AI Voice Generators: AI Text-To-Speech in 2024
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What is the most realistic AI voice? ›

The best AI voice generators at a glance
Best forExample output
ElevenLabsHundreds of realistic voicesElevenLabs example output
SpeechifyHuman-like cadenceSpeechify example output
WellSaidWord-by-word controlWellSaid example output
RespeecherEngaging speech variationsRespeecher example output
2 more rows
May 3, 2024

What are the dangers of AI voices? ›

One of the biggest dangers of AI voices is the potential for misinformation and disinformation. With AI voices, it is possible to create audio recordings that sound like real people, but say things that the person never said.

Can someone replicate and freely use anyone's voice using AI? ›

The use of AI can simulate anyone's voice, which opens up the possibility for legal and ethical issues. Any voice created with AI technology mustn't infringe on existing copyrights or trademarks, or be used for illegal activities.

Is there an app that can mimic someone's voice? ›

Welcome to Voice AI! Voice AI is a cutting-edge AI app designed for converting text into lifelike speech. With Voice AI, you can create exceptionally realistic audio and video from any text input. You can also create AI Music covers from any songs, using your own voice or the voice of other characters.

Is voice AI free? ›

The basic version of Voice.AI is free although very limited.

How to get AI voice for free? ›

Try our voice AI free - just type in some into the script box on the top of this page, select one of the voices, and click the “Create Audio” button. Check out the full Text to Speech AI generator to get access to all the voices and languages. We have more than 700 options for AI text to speech conversion.

Is voice AI safe to download? ›

First of all, is a tool that is 100% legitimate. Apart from its developers assuring potential users of its commitment towards improving the app, they have stated categorically that “it is a safe program”. Just ensure you are downloading it from their official website.

What is that AI voice on TikTok? ›

The TikTok voice is the name given to the default text-to-speech voice that TikTok uses to read any text on the screen. It is also known as the Siri voice, as it sounds similar to the voice assistant on Apple devices.

How to get the deep AI voice on TikTok? ›

Once you've recorded the video, tap on the “checkmark” icon to go to the editing screen. The “Voiceover” option immediately appears at the bottom of the editing screen. Tap it to access the AI voice feature.


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