A U.K. based startup Sonantic, that has created “human-quality” artificial voice technology for the games and entertainment industry, has managed to raise €2.3 million (approx. $2.56M) in funding.
EQT Ventures led the round with participation from its current backers, consisting of Entrepreneur First (EF), Bart Swanson of Horizons Ventures and AME Cloud Ventures. Kevin Lin, co-founder of Twitch is also one of the earlier investors of the company.
Sonantic was founded in 2018 by CEO Zeena Qureshi and CTO John Flynn as they went through EF’s company builder program in London; Sonantic (previously called Speak Ai) explains it wishes to disrupt the global gaming and entertainment voice industry. The startup has created an artificial voice tech that it promises is proficient in providing “expressive, realistic voice acting” on-demand for use by game studios. It already has R&D partnerships in process with over 10 AAA game studios.
“Getting dialogue into game development is a slow, expensive and labor-intensive task,” states Qureshi, when asked to explain the problem Sonantic wishes to resolve. “Dialogue pipelines consist of casting, booking studios, contracts, scheduling, editing, directing and a whole lot of coordination. Voiced narrative video games can take up to 10 years to make with the game design changing frequently, defaulting game devs to carry out several iteration cycles, often leading to going over budgets and game releases being delayed.”
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To provide a solution for this, Sonantic offers what Qureshi says “dynamic voice acting on-demand,” with the power to make the exact type of character in terms of gender, accent, personality, tone, and even emotional state. The startup’s human-quality text-to-speech system is offered through an API and a graphical user interface tool that allows its synthetic voice actors to be edited, sculpted and directed “just like a human actor,” she told TechCrunch.
This sees Sonantic work directly with actors to synthesize their voices whilst also harnessing their unique skills in performance. “We then augment how actors work by offering them a digital version of themselves that can create passive income for them,” explains the Sonantic CEO.
For the games studios, Sonantic provides faster iteration cycles at a much cheaper price because it slashes down logistical costs and has voice models which are ready to perform. It’s API and SaaS model also makes it simpler to make audio performances to test out potential narratives or to finesse a story, helping with directing and editing.
Meanwhile, Sonantic explains it is poising up to publicly disclose how its technology can encapsulate “deep emotions across the full spectrum,” from subtle through to exaggerated, which it explains is usually something only very skilled and talented actors can achieve.
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