• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Now hear this: voice cloning AI startup ElevenLabs nabs $19M

Bynewsmagzines

Jun 20, 2023
Now hear this: voice cloning AI startup ElevenLabs nabs $19M

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ElevenLabs, a year-old AI startup from former Google and Palantir employees that is focused on creating new text-to-speech and voice cloning tools, has raised $19 million in a Series A round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), former Github CEO Nat Friedman and former Apple AI leader Daniel Gross, with additional participation from Credo Ventures, Concept Ventures, and an array of strategic angel investors including Instagram’s co-founder Mike Krieger and Oculus VR co-founder Brendan Iribe along with many others.

In addition, Andreessen Horowitz is joining ElevenLabs’ board, citing the late Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in its blog post on the news, as one of the examples of how the human “voice carries not only our ideas, but also the most profound emotions and connections.”

ElevenLabs was founded by Piotr Dabkowski, an ex-Google machine learning engineer, and Mati Staniszewski, an ex-Palantir deployment strategist, to develop ultra-realistic text-to-speech models for education, audiobooks, gaming, movies, business, and more.

Both grew up in Poland and were inspired to create the company after watching poorly dubbed films from the U.S., according to a16z.

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“Imagine the possibilities unlocked when creatives can give any character any voice, and have that voice be indistinguishable from the original,” a16z writes in its blog post announcing its participation in the round.

Currently available products from ElevenLabs include its Speech Synthesis, which converts any writing to “professional audio, fast”; VoiceLab, which allows customers to clone voices from just a few short snippets of audio and can create entirely new synthetic voices; and the newly unveiled AI Speech Classifier with an API, which allows “anyone to upload an audio sample and find out whether the clip contains AI-generated audio from ElevenLabs,” which the company says is a first-of-its-kind tool.

Up next from ElevenLabs are two other planned products: an “AI dubbing tool” that will allow users to take existing recordings of speech and convert it into another language while preserving the original voices, and Publishers Projects, an audio production app to adjust a speakers’ pacing, insert pauses, and assign particular speakers to different text fragments.

Already, ElevenLabs claims to have over a million creators and developers from various industries, who have collectively generated more than 10 years of audio content. Among its early customers include audiobook publisher Storytel and game developer Paradox Interactive, as well as a new AI-focused podcast from entrepreneur Seth Godin.

“Our mission is to dissolve language barriers and put all audiences within reach of content creators in a safe and responsible way,” said Staniszewski.

Acknowledging that there are serious risks of harm with voice-cloning tech in particular, ElevenLabs has posted a “Voice Cloning Guide” on its website that states: “you cannot clone a voice for abusive purposes such as fraud, discrimination, hate speech or for any form of online abuse without infringing the law.” However, “caricature, parody and satire” and “artistic and political speech contributing to public debates” are uses that the company allows and supports.

While ElevenLabs is careful to state its online guide “does not constitute legal advice,” it does note that it can suspend the accounts and content of any users who it deems in violation, at will, and that “we may also report any illegal activity in accordance with applicable laws to the authorities or work with authorities on further action.”

The news of the funding round and release of new tools comes just days after Meta Platforms’ published a research paper describing its own generative AI voice synthesis tool Voicebox, though Meta has yet to publicly release the tool to users out of concerns for abuse.

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