Spotify acquires Sonantic, the AI ​​speech platform used to simulate Val Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun Maverick – TechCrunch

streaming giant SpotifyBest known for its music and podcast streaming services aimed at consumers, is acquiring a voice AI company to expand its reach in audio technology – not only opening the door to building more functionality on Spotify itself, but also for other potential business opportunities elsewhere, too. Today the company announced that it is acquiring sonantica London-based startup that has built an AI engine to create highly realistic-sounding, yet simulated, human voices from text.

You may not know the name Sonantic, but you may have seen his work. The company was founded to build AI-based realistic speech services for gaming and entertainment environments, and its technology helped bring Val Kilmer’s voice comes to life in “Top Gun: Maverick.” In real life, due to throat cancer, the actor can no longer speak as in the past; so for the sequel in which he reprises his role as foil (and now friend) of Tom Cruise, his condition and the simulated voice Sonantic created were both written into the film’s plot.

The companies are not disclosing the financial terms of the deal. Sonantic had raised less than $3 million in funding from an exciting group of investors including EQT Ventures, Entrepreneur First (EF), AME Cloud Ventures, Bart Swanson of Horizons Ventures, Kevin Lin of Twitch, Jeremy Jap, Charles Jolley and more.

It’s also not clear what the timing of the acquisition was, or whether it stemmed from the startup seeking more fundraising, or the success of the high-profile film exposure, or something else.

“We’ve known Sonantic’s technology for a while,” said a spokesperson in response to the question. He also said that the entire Sonantic team will be part of the “Consumer and Platform BU in the personalization Mission” led by Ziad Sultan, who is vice president of personalization at Spotify.

“We are very excited about the potential to bring Sonantic’s AI voice technology to the Spotify platform and create new experiences for our users,” Sultan said in a statement. “This integration allows us to engage users in a new and even more personalized way.”

Spotify notes in a blog post that it “sees several potential opportunities for text-to-speech capabilities on our platform”, and it appears that the most direct applications for using the technology will indeed be on Spotify itself, especially if it further extends its reach into new environments where consumers cannot immerse themselves in on-screen interactions, such as in vehicles, through services such as car thinglaunched earlier this year.

One example Spotify gives of how it could use the technology is using AI voices to provide more audio-based recommendations and descriptions to users who aren’t looking at their screens, such as those who drive cars or listen while they’re driving. doing other activities and not being able to look at a screen.

“We believe that in the long run, high-quality speech will be important to increase our share of listening,” it notes.

What’s interesting to consider is what plans Spotify, if any, has for Sonantic’s existing business, which is geared towards a more B2B business line. We noticed when the company last announced funding that it had 10 R&D partnerships with AAA gaming studios, and it’s a regular presence at events like GDC.

“As for Sonantic’s existing business relationships, we’re still figuring that out with Sonantic, but as it stands, it’s business as usual,” the spokesperson said.

AI being built to simulate voices is a very interesting piece of technology for a company like Spotify that could potentially have plenty of other uses.

Given how much the company has invested in podcasting as a complement to music and the tools it builds for creators — both those who work in podcasting, as well as produce and create music — there’s potential to use what Sonantic has built to develop tools. that creators could use, either to make podcast production easier or to invent entirely new kinds of interactions with their audiences.

In addition, the idea that Spotify could Continues Sonantic’s relationships with gaming and entertainment studios, setting a new front for Spotify itself in the way it diversifies its own business into more business-focused, B2B products, an area where Spotify hasn’t done much so far, but a big area remains for how it might grow and mature.

“We look forward to joining Spotify and continuing to build exciting voice experiences,” Sonantic co-founders Zeena Qureshi and John Flynn said in a joint statement. “We believe in the power of voice and its ability to create a deeper connection with listeners around the world, and we know we can be better than ever on the world’s largest audio platform.”

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