What you need to know about the bright side of audio deepfakes

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In recent times, audio deepfakes – synthetic voices created by artificial intelligence (AI) that mimic real people’s voices – have caused quite a stir.

Notably, a robocall pretending to be Joe Biden’s voice urged New Hampshire residents not to vote, showcasing the technology’s potential for mischief.

However, beyond the headlines about scams and fake messages, there’s a side to audio deepfakes that could actually do a lot of good.

Nauman Dawalatabad, a postdoctoral researcher, recently shared insights in a Q&A for MIT News, highlighting not just the concerns but also the positive impacts of audio deepfake technology.

His insights offer a fresh perspective on an often misunderstood technology.

First off, protecting privacy is a big plus of audio deepfakes.

Imagine a world where your voice can reveal everything about you – your age, gender, even potential health issues. Dawalatabad points out that our voices carry tons of personal information, and in the wrong hands, this could be problematic.

For instance, his team’s research has shown that AI can detect conditions like dementia from how people speak. That’s where audio deepfakes can help by changing the speaker’s voice in sensitive recordings, like medical interviews, ensuring privacy while allowing valuable research to continue.

The conversation around audio deepfakes often circles back to their misuse, such as in spear-phishing attacks where scammers create fake audio messages to trick people into giving away money or sensitive information.

This risk is real and growing, as making convincing fake voices has become easier and cheaper. However, there are ways to fight back. Researchers are developing methods to spot these fakes, such as detecting unnatural patterns in speech or confirming that the speaker is a live person, not a recording. Some companies are even working on special watermarks for audio to trace original recordings and prevent tampering.

Despite the potential for abuse, audio deepfake technology has a bright side that’s worth talking about. Beyond adding creativity to entertainment and media, this technology could be a game-changer in healthcare and education.

Dawalatabad is especially excited about using audio deepfakes to protect the privacy of patients and doctors in medical interviews, which can be shared globally for research without risking personal privacy. Another inspiring application is restoring the voices of people with speech impairments, offering new hope for clearer communication.

Looking ahead, the relationship between AI and how we experience sound is set to evolve in fascinating ways.

The field of psychoacoustics, which studies how we perceive sounds, combined with advances in AI, could lead to virtual and augmented reality experiences that are more realistic than ever.

With rapid advancements in AI models, the future of audio technology promises not only to enhance how we interact with the world through sound but also to deliver significant benefits across healthcare, entertainment, and education.

In conclusion, while it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with audio deepfakes, it’s equally crucial to recognize their potential for positive impact.

From protecting privacy to helping those with speech impairments, the good that can come from this technology offers a compelling counterpoint to the negative headlines, pointing towards a future where AI enhances our lives in ways we’re just beginning to imagine.