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Respeecher startup creates artificial voices for Hollywood

When young Luke Skywalker appeared in the final episode of “The Mandalorian,” a spin-off series of the Star Wars films, viewers were left speechless. Skywalker looked like his 28-year-old self, despite being portrayed by 68-year-old U.S. actor Mark Hamill, who has played the character since 1977.

To make the iconic Jedi look younger, director Jon Favreau used a visual effect called de-aging. “Something people didn’t realize is that Skywalker’s voice also wasn’t real,” Favreau said. It was artificially synthesized by Ukrainian startup Respeecher.

Respeecher’s team of nearly 20 people worked for a Hollywood series from their small office in Kyiv. Ukrainian techies obtained 40-year-old recordings of Hamill’s voice, analyzed them using artificial intelligence (AI) and generated young Skywalker’s voice. Then they swapped the voice of an actor who read the script for the synthetic one they created.
“The fact that everyone was surprised that the voice wasn’t real means that we did everything right,” said Oleksandr Serdiuk, cofounder of Respeecher.

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