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Spotify launches AI tool for translating podcasts

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By Jonny Walfisz
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Spotify has launched a new service that aims to translate podcasts into other languages through the use of AI.


The music streaming platform Spotify has announced a new tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to translate podcasts into other languages while keeping the sound in the original presenter’s voice.

Voice Translation uses OpenAI’s voice generation technology to keep the characteristics of the original voice even after the translation work is done. The technology is being piloted by Spotify via three of its most popular English language podcasts.

Episodes of the Lex Friedman Podcast, Armchair Expert and Diary of a CEO are now available in Spanish, with German and French to follow in the coming weeks. 

In the episodes, Lex Friedman interviews Yuval Noah Harari; Dax Shepherd interviews Kristen Bell; and Stevent Bartlett interviews Dr. Mindy Pelz. Other podcasters working with Spotify for upcoming translated episodes include Bill Simmons and Trevor Noah.

“By matching the creator’s own voice, Voice Translation gives listeners around the world the power to discover and be inspired by new podcasters in a more authentic way than ever before,” says Ziad Sultan, VP of Personalization.

There are over a 100 million regular podcast listeners for over five million podcast titles on Spotify. 

A Spotify spokesperson confirmed that the Voice Translation software is planned for expansion so that global users “will now be able to discover and listen to new content that has not previously been available in their native language.”

“In future, we will hope to expand access for more creators and languages, including The Rewatchables from The Ringer and Trevor Noah’s new original podcast which launches later this year,” the spokesperson continued. 

They didn’t elaborate on when this would be available for all users.

To ensure that the translations are accurate, the spokesperson confirmed that there is still human involvement in the process. “As part of piloting this AI voice translation service, we make sure there is human oversight and accountability for any AI-generated work, with teams in place to review the content accuracy. If feedback surrounding the translations is flagged, we have a team in place to quickly review and assess the feedback.”

It’s an interesting concept and could be helpful in spreading popular podcasts to greater international audiences. The announcement comes alongside a somewhat controversial statement from Spotify CEO Daniel Ek.

Ek spoke to the BBC yesterday to explain the company’s position on AI in music streaming. 

The platform had to pull a song that used AI-cloned versions of Drake and The Weeknd’s voices earlier this year. He clarified that using AI to mimic artists was unacceptable, but AI could be useful for modifying music and even impersonating artists.

Spotify doesn’t allow its content to be used to train machine learning tools, Ek confirmed.

Speaking on the podcast tool, Sultan said: “We believe that a thoughtful approach to AI can help build deeper connections between listeners and creators, a key component of Spotify’s mission to unlock the potential of human creativity.”

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