Swiss radio engages users for a day with AI generated content

“I was ready to pull the plug on the project if I had seen that my team wasn’t 100% motivated to try it.”- Antoine Multone, station chief.
Amal Jos Chacko
A robot DJ.jpg

“Today’s programming is brought to you by Artificial Intelligence”.

Listeners of the French-language radio station Couleur 3 (Color 3) woke up to hearing this message on Thursday, 27 April 2023. 

The vanguard Swiss public radio station experimented for a day using five AI-generated voices to present news and aired music entirely produced by computers.

The voices of the five presenters were cloned by Respeecher, a voice cloning software powered by artificial intelligence noted for synthesizing a younger Luke Skywalker’s voice for the Star Wars franchise’s The Mandalorian. ChatGPT and other AI algorithms were used to generate material for AI voices to speak.

In the wake of AI’s explosion into our daily lives, Couleur 3 took on this undertaking to de-stigmatize its use, seeking to demonstrate how these can improve workflow and speed instead. “AI helps us by facilitating certain tasks, saving us time, allowing larger and more in-depth research,” said Pascal Crittin, director of Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS). 

Swiss radio engages users for a day with AI generated content
A presenter at work at a radio station.

Antoine Multone, the station’s chief, spoke about the ramifications of working and living with AI on a call with AP News. “I think if we become ostriches … we put our heads in the sand and say, ‘Mon Dieu, there’s a new technology! We’re all going to die!’, then yeah, we’re going to die because it (AI) is coming, whether we like it or not. We want to master the technology so we can then put limits on it.”

Respeecher trained its AI for three months to grasp the offbeat vibe of Couleur 3. The news material presented was not real but rather generated to simulate scenarios from far in the future, such as a temporary ban on spaceship flights over Geneva airspace complaints.

To prevent any confusion from the audience mistaking it to be the real deal, a reminder— also AI cloned— rang out every 20 minutes. A WhatsApp line opened to receive feedback saw hundreds of messages pour in shortly after the programming began.

While few users were critical of the experiment, with one critic calling the project a waste of time for a publicly funded station, most of the messages received embraced the venture while noting the absence of a human element

“You can sense these are robots, and there are fewer surprises, less personality,” Multone said while mentioning an on-air discussion of the experiment by real people. “Many messages just said: Give us back our humans!”

Looks like the much-feared takeover of the world by AI isn’t going to happen today either.

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