TechBytes with Matt Muldoon, President North America at ReadSpeaker
Please tell us about your current role and responsibilities at ReadSpeaker.
I was appointed President – North America of ReadSpeaker on May 1, 2020. This role is one where you jump out of bed in the morning excited to start working. I have the privilege of working with both innovative organizations and extremely talented, forward-thinking individuals. ReadSpeaker products and SaaS solutions, coupled with knowledgeable team members, are the key component in developing long lasting partnerships with our clients. Leading the efforts of the ReadSpeaker North America team is so energizing. Hands down, the challenges this team faces daily in solving real world problems for our clients are not only challenging but rewarding—especially when you hear ReadSpeaker voices solve business issues. As we chart our course for the back half of the year and into 2021, look for more innovation, new voices and new languages being deployed.
Marketing budgets are expected to be slashed drastically. What would an ideal Covid-19 Marketing budget should look like?
As the world comes to terms with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is great to see voice helping to shape the new normal. As fear of the virus loomed, industries looked for technologies that could fuel contactless transactions or experiences. Voice was perfectly suited to answer this call and help both businesses and people cope with getting back to daily routines. While routines have changed, voice technologies will continue to expand and simplify the way we interact with the world around us. A year ago, voice may have been considered a disruption to an industry or brand, now it is a necessity. Custom branded voices create and further drive a brand’s identity and messaging because consumers can engage with the brand’s voice as part of daily life.
Text to Speech with natural human experience can take personalization to a very different level in DTC industry. Can you give us more industry-focused examples where Text to Speech solutions can be used?
The range of applications and use cases for text-to-speech (TTS) technology is expanding almost daily, especially with the rise of a contactless society due to Covid-19. Chatbots, integrated voice response (IVR) systems and IoT are all seeing a resurgence in voice use, but the equation has changed. Whereas voice and TTS technologies were historically seen as a way to cut costs and reduce overhead, now the intersection between humans and technical interfaces must be more personal, more customized and more human – the focus must now be on engagement and immersion, not just utility. Whereas a typical IVR system used to be a series of prompt-based recorded replies, with the introduction of conversational AI and customized emotive voices, the interaction is less transactional and more experiential, which is more in line with dynamic human interaction. Retail is one industry in particular that is using virtual reality, augmented reality and custom voice to create digital attendants that allow users to shop in a digital mall and actually hear about item details as they “walk” through a shop from the comfort of their living room. Gaming is another industry that is realizing the benefits of personalized digital voices in game franchises that have an established set of characters and/or narrators.
Tell us more about your AI engineering team and how you plan your product development
We have two R&D centers, one in Seoul, Korea and the other in Uppsala, Sweden. In each we have speech scientists, linguists and computer engineers who combine elements of human speech with the latest technology along with empirical data accumulated over 20 years of developing TTS technology. We create solutions with our customers in mind and our focus has always been on providing the highest quality, most lifelike voices created with groundbreaking, best-in-class technology. However, we are also acutely aware that businesses must consider infrastructure demands and computational costs for a solution to be feasible, so we ensure that all of our products balance voice quality with real-world exigencies. Recently, our team in Korea developed AI-based voice synthesizers that operate using central processing units (CPUs) rather than more expensive, maintenance-heavy graphic processing units (GPUs). This is a great example of how our engineers deliver on the need for lifelike voice solutions that can be realistically implemented.
How is your Voice solution different from Google’s?
This is a difficult question to answer because we don’t want to speak for Google, but it’s probably fair to say that Google’s voice solutions are meant to build upon and augment the Google ecosystem. All voice providers owe a debt of thanks to Google since Google devices helped introduce voice to the consumer market through smart speakers and the like, but ReadSpeaker takes a different approach. We have always prided ourselves on being an independent voice provider and ensuring that our customers’ data is private. Any data that is processed through our solutions has been and will always remain anonymous – we are not trying to reach consumers down the road and therefore do not process, record or aggregate any data. We very much want to provide our customers with the highest quality products and features like customizable dictionaries, a large selection of languages and voices and white glove service.
Five (5 Nos.) Applications in the future where Text to speech could be dominating:
– Retail. With the demise of brick and mortar and the transition to virtual, retailers need to find a way to replace the in-person physical experience with a digital facsimile. It’s not too hard to imagine that in the future buying a product in person will involve interacting with an AI-driven digital avatar, whether in-store or online.
– Education. Remote learning and distance learning are now part of our everyday learning experience. TTS started by solving the need to make written content audible, and as students with accessibility needs increasingly receive their education online, TTS will be paramount.
– Call centers and cloud based IVR. With Covid-19, we have witnessed call center employees working remotely which is a logistical nightmare for businesses that typically routed customers through an on-premise IVR system. Now that call centers have essentially been decentralized and consumers demand experience over utility, dynamic, AI-powered IVR systems that can be administered through the cloud are going to be the norm.
– Robotics. Digital concierges that greet people in-person are poised to become the next dominant application in retail and hospitality.
– Gaming. With advancements in speaking styles and emotionally responsive voices, the gaming industry now has the option of replacing voice actors (which are costly and time consuming) with lifelike digital avatars that can be repurposed in perpetuity.
Thank you for answering all our questions!
Matt Muldoon is a President North America at ReadSpeaker
ReadSpeaker is a global voice specialist providing dozens of languages and lifelike voices. Using its own industry-leading technology, the company delivers some of the most natural-sounding synthesized voices on the market. ReadSpeaker uses next-generation Deep Neural Network (DNN) technology to structurally improve voice quality at all levels. ReadSpeaker is a subsidiary of the Memory Disk Division (MD) of the HOYA Corporation, with offices in 15 countries, and over 10,000 customers in 65 countries, providing a complete text-to-speech (TTS) offering, both as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and as licensed solutions.
A fully integrated TTS provider, ReadSpeaker encompasses all of HOYA’s state-of-the-art technologies (NeoSpeech, Voiceware, VoiceText and rSpeak), providing a wide variety of applications for varying channels and devices in multiple industries. ReadSpeaker gives a voice to businesses and organizations for online, embedded, server or desktop needs, apps, speech production, custom voices and more. With more than 20 years’ experience, the ReadSpeaker team of experts is leading the way in text to speech. ReadSpeaker is “Pioneering Voice Technology”.