Voices Of Red Velvet’s Irene And NCT’s Taeyong Added To AI Speakers Developed By SK Telecom And SM Entertainment
After beginning their collaboration in January, SK Telecom and SM Entertainment will launch AI speakers “NUGU” with alarm and scheduling functions featuring voices of SM Entertainment’s artists.
On October 29 at the SK Group Tech Summit, SK Telecom showcased the “celeb alarm” and “celeb schedule” functions which will be added to “NUGU” next month.
“Celeb alarm” is a service that notifies users in a celebrity’s voice. There were times in the past where celebrities lent their voices to be used as alarms or were sold as content, but that was done by playing a recording of the celebrity’s voice. The “celeb alarm” offered by SK Telecom uses artificial-voice technology and users will be able to choose pet names for the voices to use to refer to them.
“Celeb alarm” was created using SK Telecom’s Text To Speech (TTS) technology. TTS uses a person’s previously recorded voice, splits the audio into words, and recombines it via an exclusive engine. Past TTS technology made it easily noticeable that the voice was synthesized because of a mechanical sound, but SK Telecom was able to create natural-sounding synthesized audio thanks to “deep learning technology.”
“Celeb schedule” is a function that reads out loud SM Entertainment’s official schedule. Because it uses TTS technology, there is no need for additional voice recording from the artist even if new schedules are added every day.
SK Telecom and SM Entertainment’s partnership began in 2017. SK Telecom invested 25 billion won (approximately $21.4 million) in audio equipment company iRiver and increased the capital of SM C&C by 60 billion won (approximately $51.3 million). SM Entertainment also invested 40 billion won (approximately $34 million) and 7.3 billion won (approximately $6 million) in increasing capital in those areas, respectively.
In January, the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding for technical cooperation at CES 2019 in Las Vegas. There, they revealed plans to develop a new company using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and SM Entertainment’s content.
“Celeb alarm” and “celeb schedule” are some of the ways third parties can join the “NUGU” ecosystem. SK Telecom can offer services using artists’ voices while SM Entertainment can commercialize its artists’ voices.
At the ICT Tech Summit opening address, SK CEO Choi Tae Won said, “New ICT technology is evolving so rapidly that it’s virtually impossible to be independently competitive. We need to make the SK Tech Summit into an infrastructure where SK and its outside partners can construct an ecosystem that can create cooperation and growth.”
SK Telecom’s TTS technology may be used to expand its services so that individuals can record their own voices in the future. A source from SK Telecom said, “We’re developing a service for individual service using voice data, but we have not yet discussed expansion of functions outside of celeb alarm.”