WWDC 2023 may not be happening until June 5, but that hasn’t stopped Apple from announcing some of the features that will be coming to iPhones, iPads and Macs in the near future. These features are primarily centered around accessibility, but one in particular has been making a big splash.
Personal Voice is a new feature Apple claims allows users to create “a synthesized voice that sounds like them”. The idea here is that people can retain their voice even if they lose the ability to speak, and allow them to communicate as themselves — and not a generic voice like you’d find with Siri or similar.
According to Apple, Personal Voice will be able to synthesize a person’s voice in just 15 minutes. All you have to do is read out text prompts on a relevant device: including iOS 17 iPhones, iPadOS 17 iPads and M-series Macs. This is all done with on-device machine learning, which means the digital voice doesn’t go anywhere near an external server. That ensures that your voice will remain your voice — and can’t be accessed or used by anyone else.
Once recorded and synthesized, Personal Voice can be integrated into Apple’s new Live Speech feature. This is essentially text-to-voice, allowing users to type out messages that the device will then read aloud. This feature uses the default Siri voice until prompted otherwise, but combined it ensures people can easily communicate with their own voice should they be unable to speak.
Live Speech can be used on phone calls or in person, and includes a feature to save messages and phrases for later use. So it’s as close as you can get to talking to another person, without actually speaking.
The applications for this sort of tool are pretty extensive, when you think about it. Various medical conditions can cause loss of speech, and I can’t even imagine how it must feel for that to happen — considering how important it is to be able to communicate with others. Devices that offer text-to-speech have existed in various forms for a long time, but having it available on an iPhone or iPad should make this technology a lot more accessible and affordable.
I can also imagine this tool working well for people with anxiety, allowing them to communicate more comfortably in situations where you would normally have to speak — like over the phone.
And in all circumstances being able to retain your own voice emphasizes how important this tool really is. Voice is an important part of a person’s identity, and being able to retain it, no matter the circumstances, is a great thing. And Apple appears to be making it a lot easier and more accessible to do that. Hopefully more phone makers (particularly Google) can come up with their own versions as well.
We’ll likely see Personal Voice and Live Text being demonstrated at WWDC 2023, and until then you can keep up with all the latest news and rumors over in our WWDC 2023 hub.