Darth Vader is More Machine Than Man

In all the years of Star Wars movies and television shows, one thing has remained a constant: James Earl Jones. The actor who has appeared in countless movies throughout his career is the defining voice of Darth Vader. At age 91, Jones has agreed to call it quits. It makes sense that would want to hang up his Vader mask. But who will replace him? A computer, of course.

[Lucasfilm] has enlisted the assistance of Respeecher, a Ukrainian startup that uses AI technology to craft new conversations from revitalized old voice recordings. Respeecher’s relationship with Lucasfilm began with the Disney+ series “The Book of Boba Fett,” for which they recreated the voice of young Luke Skywalker. The two also teamed for the voice performance of Darth Vader on the series “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” which debuted on Disney’s streamer this summer.

NBC News

This company has taken pieces of Jones' voice and worked to recreate it via AI and work to make it sound like him when composing new dialogue. The process is fascinating when you think about it.

On the flip side, it is also strange that Disney / Lucasfilm would not enlist the various voice actors who handle Vader duty for the video games and other properties where the voice is needed. They have used other voice actors for many years. Is it a union issue? Is it simply a situation where they don't want to pay someone new to do that work? I'm sure the answer is somewhere in the middle.

Will this AI voice be an exact match for Jones' impressive work as the dark lord of the sith? The voice debuted in the Obi Wan Kenobi show. I hace not yet watched it, so I can't comment yet. Given how quickly technology improves, even if we can hear a difference, it will only be a matter of time before the AI improves enough that it is a one-for-one recreation of Jones' voice.

What an interesting time to be alive.

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