Like all technological advancements, the growing use of A.I.-assisted technology has divided opinion; splitting views between those who fear a potential robot takeover and those who hope to embrace its efficiencies.
But whether you’re Nick Cave, bemoaning the “apocalypse” heralded by ChatGPT, or Grimes, actively encouraging fans to make a song in her deep-faked likeness, there is one thing people can all agree on: the technology is here to stay.
Reykjavík-based music-making app Overtune is aiming to bring the use of A.I.-assisted voice technology even more to the masses, with a new feature that allows users to instantly transform their vocals into that of a well-known celebrity, with Snoop Dogg, Elvis Presley and Morgan Freeman among the famous voices currently on offer.
Founded in 2020 by Sigurdur Arnason, Jason Dadi Gudjonsson and Petur Eggerz Petursson, the Overtune app allows anyone with a smartphone and even the most basic level of musical proficiency to arrange beats, record vocals and share music to their socials.
The app’s latest feature, which is currently live for iOS devices, simply takes your voice and almost immediately converts it into the tone and timbre of the selected recognisable voice – all of which you can perform over a beat from one of the app’s many intricate and wide-ranging beatpacks.
The voices of Family Guy’s father figure Peter Griffin, South Park’s foul-mouthed Eric Cartman and America’s 45th President Donald Trump (who’s both portly and offensive) are also currently available.
Excited by the prospect of being the only application on the market that offers such an instantaneous, A.I.-assisted way of altering your voice, Arnason spoke to whynow about the possibilities for Overtune’s users to enhance their content and the ambitions for the new tech, saying: “What keeps us up at night is: how can we make it as simple as possible? As sleek as possible?”
Of course, the world of deep-fakes and digital falsities isn’t without its critics, but as the CEO of a start-up, Arnason has said, “we exist basically to disrupt, to disrupt industries; we are open to discussing everything, but it really is just an exciting time for us.”
“I’m more excited about what people can do with a toy, rather than how to put a legal status on things,” he added. “That’s how we are framed in our mind – especially the people crazy enough to go into an industry like this.”
What’s more, the company hope at some stage in the future to work on a fully collaborative basis, making the A.I.-assisted tech a premium feature on the app and splitting revenues with anyone willing to collaborate, in return for the rights to use their voice.
But, just for a moment, putting the quagmire of qualms around A.I. aside, the tech is, quite simply, a bit of fun. Many a South Park watcher – whether they were of age to understand what this crude cartoonish figure was spouting or not – would mimic his voice. Likewise, every Snoop Dogg tune, with its laid-back West Coast flow, or big, bold Elvis hit has been rapped or sung by fans in turn with a degree of imitation.
And now, those things can be achieved with an uncanny resemblance.
This latest tech also adds to the shifting sands for how people make and deliver new tunes – a tenet of modern-day music consumption that’s evolved massively, especially through the explosion of TikTok. “How we consume music has changed drastically,” Arnason says. “And these platforms are all driven by music: TikTok, [YouTube] Shorts.”
Yet whilst this sort of tech might seem like something wildly new, Arnason’s also keen to stress it speaks to a timeless human longing for escapism. “The tech is here to say,” he says, matter-of-factly, “And what we do with narratives and stories, and music, and plays and movies has always bended reality.”
“That’s why we have art form, why we read books. We want to escape reality. Video games are also a really good example of this. We are just doing it for the user on the [Overtune] app. And it’s super addictive and super funny.”
And you can now enjoy the fruits of their labour (“I can tell you at this moment, we are extremely tired,” Arnason adds, almost with a degree of pride), via the Overtune app.