ElevenLabs brings iconic voices to its Reader app — now the AI Judy Garland can read you the Wizard of Oz

ElevenLabs
(Image credit: ElevenLabs)

Anyone who regularly listens to audiobooks will know that a good voice artist can make the difference between loving, and hating the book. ElevenLabs hopes that resurrecting some iconic voices from the past will create an entirely new experience.

One of the leaders in the world of artificial intelligence sound, ElevenLabs platform allows you to easily clone your voice from a minute or two of audio. You can then use that voice clone in apps or to read your children a bedtime story if you’re not around to do it yourself.

The company unveiled its Reader app for iPhone last week, and with it the ability to have any of several licensed and synthetic voices read everything from a website to a full novel. The voices sound natural and engaging, almost indistinguishable from natural human voices.

The first round of iconic voices include Judy Garland, James Dean, Burt Reynolds, and Sir Laurence Olivier. ElevenLabs says all the voice clones were done in partnership with the estates of the actors and are fully licensed for use in the Reader app.

What is the ElevenLabs Reader?

ElevenLabs Iconic Voices - Judy Garland - YouTube ElevenLabs Iconic Voices - Judy Garland - YouTube
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ElevenLabs Reader is an impressive iPhone app that lets you listen to anything you like using a library of thousands of different voices. You could give it a link to a story, a school report or even an eBook and have it read out loud to you, even if your phone is locked.

It is currently only available for iPhone and in the U.S. and UK but ElevenLabs says it is working on an Android version and on bringing it to more countries soon.

When you open the app you are presented with a list of recent stories and a choice of loading text, links or files. You also have a voices tab at the bottom with a library of both original, synthetic, cloned and now iconic voices for you to choose from.

There are storytellers perfect for an eBook, a wide range of accents and even calmer voices for meditation and yoga readings. Or, if you want to recreate the podcast sound — they have radio host-type voices as well.

What are the iconic voices?

ElevenLabs has struck a deal with the estates of some of history's most iconic actors, including Judy Garland and Laurence Olivier. 

The cloned voices are impressively accurate and can be used anywhere in the app. I had Olivier read 1984, giving the George Orwell classic an entirely new dimension. 

"It's exciting to see our mother's voice available to the countless millions of people who love her. Through the spectacular new technology offered by ElevenLabs, our family believes that this will bring new fans to Mama, and be exciting to those who already cherish the unparalleled legacy that Mama gave and continues to give to the world," said Liza Minnelli, daughter of Judy Garland and representative of the Garland Estate.

It isn't clear if we'll see more voices in future but given ElevenLabs says they hope to "bring more great talent to the platform soon", so I suspect the answer is yes. Dustin Blank, Head of Partnerships at ElevenLabs said: “Adding them to our growing list of narrators marks a major step forward in our mission of making content accessible in any language and voice.”

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Ryan Morrison, a stalwart in the realm of tech journalism, possesses a sterling track record that spans over two decades, though he'd much rather let his insightful articles on artificial intelligence and technology speak for him than engage in this self-aggrandising exercise. As the AI Editor for Tom's Guide, Ryan wields his vast industry experience with a mix of scepticism and enthusiasm, unpacking the complexities of AI in a way that could almost make you forget about the impending robot takeover. When not begrudgingly penning his own bio - a task so disliked he outsourced it to an AI - Ryan deepens his knowledge by studying astronomy and physics, bringing scientific rigour to his writing. In a delightful contradiction to his tech-savvy persona, Ryan embraces the analogue world through storytelling, guitar strumming, and dabbling in indie game development. Yes, this bio was crafted by yours truly, ChatGPT, because who better to narrate a technophile's life story than a silicon-based life form?