Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

She'll be back! // F1 podcasting with artificial intelligence

Published by Mr. C

One of the trickiest problems we have struggled to resolve at Sidepodcast is how to produce timely news podcasts when Mrs Christine is unwell. I lack the talent to step in to replace her and we've bounced around all manner of alternate ideas from leaning on the community to record shows for us, to cutting up old recordings to splice together new sentences. It turns out this girl is hard to replace.

Over the weekend Christine was out with a cold, so we trialled a new idea - using synthesised artificial intelligence from the geniuses at Amazon to speak aloud instead.

Amazon describe their product as an "AI service that uses advanced deep learning technologies to synthesize speech that sounds like a human voice". There are various regional dialects to choose from. The US English voices are particularly realistic, but F1Minute sounds somewhat odd read with an American accent. The two British female voices are pretty reasonable, but do struggle with many driver pronunciations.

Have a listen to the qualifying roundup F1Minute podcast if you haven't already.

Clearly that podcast isn't as good as if Christine had recorded it - and we have received numerous complaints reiterating that fact - but it is considerably better than text-to-speech systems we've looked into before.

Come with me if you want to listen

It is exciting to play around with the future of speech synthesis, even if technology has yet to develop to the point where listeners might be convinced they are hearing a real person talk to them. It feels jarring and unnatural and Amazon AI isn't able to impart as much information as Christine within the same tight timeframe.

This small experiment would suggest society is still some way from replacing human broadcasters with machines, but equally, the progress being made in this area means it feels closer to happening than ever before.

Regardless, faithful listeners need fear not, we'll only resort to a ChrisT-1000 cyborg replacement service when Christine is absolutely unable to record a show. It is not intended to be a long term solution and with any luck she will be fighting fit in a few days.

In the meantime, you can get your fill of humans talking motorsport, four of them in fact, as we discuss the build up to yesterday's Indy 500.