London and Barcelona-based audio-as-a-service SaaS startup Aflorithmic has scooped up $1.3 million in seed funding from Crowd Media Holdings, an Australia-based company focused on influencer-based ‘social commerce and marketing.
It’s taking a 10% stake in Aflorithmic, per a press release, where it says the strategic investment aims to enable it to offer FaceTime conversations with celebrities through “best-in-class voice cloning technology”.
Two-year-old Aflorithmic may not have chosen a name that trips off the tongue, but it’s all about speech and audio. It’s built a platform that offers fully automated, scalable audio production using AI-driven synthetic media, (“ethical”) voice cloning, and audio mastering — which can be delivered to people’s ears via websites, mobile apps, smart speakers, and so on via its APIs.
“Text in beautiful audio out” is its pithy slogan.
Sample clips on its website illustrate the personalization element with synthesized (robot-voiced) voiceovers greeting a named customer before plunging into the detail of whatever content it’s been programmed to deliver.
Some of Aflorithmic’s current (proof of concept/pilot) customers are using its tools to create audiobooks for kids, for a personalized narration of wellness/nutrition programs, and even a robot butler concierge service for hotel guests. Its business thesis is that demand for audio far outstrips the ability of studio-produced human-spoken voiceovers to deliver.
Hence it reckons synthesized media will be needed to plug the demand gap — serving up infinite permutations of a voice track, each one personalized to a particular customer of the brand or enterprise. For now, it’s working on around 10 projects with early beta customers, focused on the edtech, martech, and health & fitness sectors.
At the same time, the popularity of podcasts and live-voice streaming shows no sign of abating — speaking to the staying power of audio in a video-heavy era.
Aflorithmic’s new investor, Crowd Media Holdings, has rather more ambitious designs on what its tools can help it do — and talks about ‘completely reshaping the way consumers engage in commerce.
The specific driver for its investment in Aflorithmic (aka ALFR) is a plan to blend synthesized voice with video to let fans engage in “immersive” video chats with simulated versions of their favorite celebrities. TIt said that taking a stake in the audio startup to partner on that project helps it de-risk that plan,
“ALFR brings the audio tech that will replicate a celebrity’s accent, tone, and mannerisms as if the celebrity were on the other end of a call,” Crowd Media writes, noting that “the actual content” the (future) cloned celebrity will sweetly whisper to your face will be “driven by” its own AI-driven chatbot technology — based on drawing on a knowledge base of answers built up from responding to more than 180M user-submitted questions (“via text-only mediums”).