Following the retirement of voice actor James Earl Jones, Darth Vader’s voice will now be generated by an AI. For the sequel to the Star Wars saga, Lucasfilm has decided to use Ukrainian software Respeecher to clone a voice…
For 45 years, James Earl Jones has lent his voice to the iconic Star Wars villain Darth Vader. The adventure has began in 1977 with the first opus of the saga, ” A New Hope “, and finally ended with a brief line in the ninth episode, ” Skywalker’s Ascension ” released in 2019.
Now aged 91, the legendary double has chosen to take a well-deserved retirement. However, the Star Wars franchise lives on and the Darth Vader character needs a voice…
To replace James Earl Jones, Lucasfilm decided to turn to artificial intelligence. And more specifically a voice-modeling tool called Respeecher.
Respeecher: a voice cloning tool based on Deep Learning
From zany Jar Jar Binks to embarrassing virtual clones of Leia and Luke, computer-generated characters haven’t always gone down well with Star Wars. However, Darth Vader’s voice will indeed be dubbed by an AI.
Developed by a Ukrainian company, the Respeecher voice cloning tool uses Deep Learning to model and replicate human voices to perfection.
Previously, this technology had already been used to clone the voice of Mark Hamill alias Luke Skywalker in the series The Mandalorian. Satisfied with the result, production decided to use this AI to dub Darth Vader.
The Sith Lord appears in the new Obi-Wan Kenobiand delivers a few dozen lines. For the occasion, James Earl Jones signed a contract authorizing Disney to reproduce his voice thanks to Respeecher.
Using the actor’s archive of recordings, artificial intelligence created a model enabling another actor to borrow his voice thanks to speech-to-speech” technology.
This isn’t the first time a famous actor’s voice has been synthesized or altered using AI. Recently, the voice of Val Kilmer also had to be synthesized for his role as Iceman in Top Gun: Maverick due to a health problem for the actor.
Production hampered by the war in Ukraine
In the middle of production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, Russia invaded Ukraine. As a result, the Respeecher team had to overcome many obstacles.
In particular, the company’s employees had to continue working while they sheltered from the bombardments in the toiletsin the corridors of their apartments, in a cinema converted into a bunker, or even in a narrow brick basement.
The broadcast of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney + was a brief moment of respite and comfort for the Respeecher teams. Employees remaining in Kiev gathered to watch Darth Vader’s first appearance in the series, to celebrate their success together.
Despite the challenges, the Ukrainian company has successfully completed its mission and continues to work on several secret projects. These projects are likely to be Disney-related, and we can expect future appearances by Darth Vader…
How dangerous is cybersecurity?
Respeecher is well aware of the cybersecurity risks posed by its technology. From hackers could get their hands on this AIand use it for identity theft and social engineering.
This voice cloning system could even pose copyright problemsby allowing anyone to imitate someone else’s voice from recorded samples.
However, on its web page dedicated to ethics, the company states that it ” does not authorize any misleading use “ of its technology and ” does not use voice without permission when this could impact the subject’s privacy or ability to earn a living “.
Unfortunately, sooner or later this AI will escape from Respeecher’s laboratories. Several similar tools are being developed in open sourcesuch as the Koe Recast project. Hackers will soon be able to exploit any voice to generate DeepFakes, and it will be very difficult to trust the sound of an interlocutor’s voice…