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Bourdain Documentary's Use of A.I. to Mimic Voice Draws Questions


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Anthony Bourdain in Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain.

In the new documentary about Anthony Bourdains life, Roadrunner, a few sentences of what might be presumed to be recorded audio of Bourdain, who died by suicide in 2018, in reality was generated by artificial intelligence.

Credit: CNN/Focus Features

The new documentary about Anthony Bourdain's life, "Roadrunner," is one hour and 58 minutes long — much of which is filled with footage of the star throughout the decades of his career as a celebrity chef, journalist and television personality.

But on the film's opening weekend, 45 seconds of it is drawing much of the public's attention.

The focus is on a few sentences of what an unknowing audience member would believe to be recorded audio of Bourdain, who died by suicide in 2018. In reality, the voice is generated by artificial intelligence: Bourdain's own words, turned into speech by a software company who had been given several hours of audio that could teach a machine how to mimic his tone, cadence and inflection.

One of the machine-generated quotes is from an email Bourdain wrote to a friend, David Choe.

"You are successful, and I am successful," Bourdain's voice says, "and I'm wondering: Are you happy?"

From The New York Times
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