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Google’s DeepMind Achieves Speech-Generation Breakthrough

Photographer: PASIEKA/Getty Images/Science Photo Library
  • DeepMind system generates soundwaves to mimic human voices
  • Performed 50 percent better than existing technology

Google’s DeepMind unit, which is working to develop super-intelligent computers, has created a system for machine-generated speech that it says outperforms existing technology by 50 percent.

U.K.-based DeepMind, which Google acquired for about 400 million pounds ($533 million) in 2014, developed an artificial intelligence called WaveNet that can mimic human speech by learning how to form the individual sound waves a human voice creates, it said in a blog post Friday. In blind tests for U.S. English and Mandarin Chinese, human listeners found WaveNet-generated speech sounded more natural than that created with any of Google’s existing text-to-speech programs, which are based on different technologies. WaveNet still underperformed recordings of actual human speech.

Many computer-generated speech programs work by using a large data set of short recordings of a single human speaker and then combining these speech fragments to form new...


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