June 2, 2023

Right here’s the factor about podcasts: There are too a lot of them. 

Greater than 4 million, to be exact, in accordance with the database Podcast Index. Up to now three days alone, practically 103,000 particular person podcast episodes have been revealed on-line, a deluge of audio content material so voluminous that listeners want by no means run out of choices. You could possibly spend the remainder of your life working by way of the prevailing true crime catalog on Apple Podcasts or the sports activities chat exhibits on Spotify and find yourself dying of outdated age in 2070 whereas Michael Barbaro reads an advert for Mailchimp to your corpse. 

Within the ongoing generative AI gold rush, although, opportunistic entrepreneurs are on the lookout for entry into even probably the most saturated markets. A wave of startups, together with ElevenLabs, WondercraftAI, and Podcastle, have launched easy-to-use instruments to generate AI voices in minutes. So, as if on cue, AI podcasts are right here, whether or not anybody requested for them or not. 

In these early days, no person’s holding monitor of what number of listeners this unusual new style of podcast has. Main hubs like Apple Podcasts and Spotify don’t have separate charts for robotic hosts. There are, nonetheless, just a few particular person AI podcasts which have clearly discovered audiences, at the very least for his or her first crop of episodes. 

The primary AI-generated podcast to take off cheated a bit—it used the cloned voice of the world’s hottest human podcast host. The Joe Rogan AI Expertise is a collection of simulations of Rogan gabbing with (equally pretend) company like OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and former president Donald Trump. Shortly after the primary episode got here out, the actual Rogan tweeted a hyperlink to it. “That is going to get very slippery, youngsters,” he wrote. 

On YouTube, the dupe racked up greater than half one million views. Some listeners didn’t even care that it was AI. “That is really adequate for me. Great things,” one wrote. 

The Joe Rogan AI Expertise was created by a Rogan fan named Hugo. (He declined to provide WIRED his full title as a result of he doesn’t need to be professionally related to the venture.) He has a Patreon to help manufacturing of the present and lately turned on monetization on YouTube, however he doesn’t anticipate to make any actual revenue off it—particularly as he’s conscious that he doesn’t have consent to make use of Rogan’s voice or likeness, and that podcasting platforms could find yourself banning this kind of impersonation. 

Hugo created the collection as a result of he needed to showcase what AI voice instruments can do. Though he rigorously edits the episodes to make them move for listeners—they will take days or even weeks to get proper—he doesn’t assume the conversations themselves are notably enthralling, even when they’re fairly correct imitations. “Other than listening to the podcast due to its technological development, there’s no level,” Hugo says. “It’s simply wasted time.” 

It’s unclear whether or not the viewers will grasp round, or in the event that they merely needed to take a look at one thing uncommon and new; Hugo has launched 4 episodes, and every subsequent installment has pulled a smaller viewers than the final. 

WIRED spoke with a number of different creators of AI-generated podcasts who echoed Hugo’s take. They loved taking part in round with the expertise, however they take into account the top outcomes a byproduct of experimentation. Israel-based sound engineer Lior Sol, for instance, created a trippy podcast referred to as Myself, I Am and That utilizing ElevenLabs’ instruments. He made a clone of his voice after which a clone of that clone in a particularly meta dialog. “I’m undoubtedly having enjoyable with it,” he says. However that doesn’t imply he’s chasing massive audiences. Proper now, his listeners quantity within the dozens. His mates prefer it, he likes it—it’s an artwork venture, and an opportunity to fiddle round with new tech, not an try and make one thing business. 

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