Apple’s AI audiobooks won’t kill off human narrators just yet

If you’re a fan of audiobooks, Apple just gave you a taste of the future by releasing its first batch of AI-narrated books. But while this is a great move with major ramifications, the robotic undertones of the narrators show that the lovable human voices will be around for some time yet.

You can find AI-enabled audiobooks that use text-to-speech translation in the Apple Books app by searching for “AI narration.” This displays a list of romance or fantasy books (both free and paid) that come with the description “Narrated by Apple Books.”

Apple Books offers two types of AI voice — a soprano called Madison and a baritone voice called Jackson — both of which have an American accent and currently only speak English. You can get a sense of what it’s like by clicking the “Preview” button below an Apple Book title.

A tablet screen showing Apple's artificial intelligence audiobook narrator

(Image credit: Apple)

At the moment, there is undoubtedly a synthetic, robotic quality to each of Apple’s AI voices. You won’t mistake them for the warm, expressive tones of famous narrators like Stephen Fry or Julia Whelan anytime soon. But while the uncanny valley remains a difficult hurdle for AI narrators to cross, they are undoubtedly on a fast road to our ears.

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