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Cyberpunk 2077 recently recaptured the attention of gamers with the launch of the Phantom Liberty expansion—and with a game world steeped in AI technology that brought deceased hero Johnny Silverhand back to life as an engram, it makes sense that developer CD Projekt Red would use the technology for a similar real-life purpose as well.
What Phantom Liberty players may not know is that AI technology was used to recreate the voice of Ripperdoc character Viktor Vector, originally played by Polish voice actor Miłogost "Miłek" Reczek, who passed away in 2021.
CD Projekt Red (CDPR) teamed with Ukraine-based AI tool developer Respeecher to recreate Reczek’s voice after receiving permission from his family, as first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed to Decrypt by the publisher.
"Miłek’s sons were very supportive and gave us their permission to move forward with the project," a CD Projekt Red representative told Decrypt.
In Cyberpunk 2077, Vektor is a “Ripperdoc,” slang for a doctor who can install or remove cyberware, and a longtime friend of the protagonist of the game. CDPR initially considered replacing the actor, but decided instead to use artificial intelligence tech to maintain the late actor’s role in the game. The AI algorithm was applied to lines recorded by actor Janusz Zadura to bring the end result closer to Reczek's original performance.
“This way we could keep [Reczek's] performance in the game and pay tribute to his wonderful performance as Viktor Vektor,” a representative told Decrypt.
Earlier this month, CDPR announced that Cyberpunk 2077 had sold 25 million copies, and that the studio is working to develop a live-action adaptation of the franchise. It's unclear whether that adaptation will take the form of a feature film or TV series.
Thanks to advances in generative artificial intelligence, the technology has quickly found its way into many facets of everyday life. One area that has fascinated and concerned many, including world leaders, is the rise of AI-generated deepfakes that can replicate a person’s likeness, mannerisms, and voice.
Founded in 2018, Respeecher uses artificial intelligence to create synthetic recreations of human voices. Last year, Respeecher partnered with the team from AI imaging developer Metaphysic to recreate Elvis Presley for the finale of “America’s Got Talent.” Recently, Respeecher’s technology was used in “Goliath,” a documentary about basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain.
We're proud to announce that Respeecher has been credited for voice conversion services in Goliath, a three-part documentary examining the historic life, career and impact of basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain.#voiceconversion #goliath #respeecher #voicecloning #AI #filmindustry pic.twitter.com/4xIZFK8Tvk
— Respeecher (@respeecher) August 16, 2023
According to Respeecher’s website, in addition to film and television voice cloning services, the company also offers AI voice technology for animation, advertisement, and games—including Sony’s God of War: Ragnarok and Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty.
AI continues to be a factor in the ongoing Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) strike. The prospect of background actors being digitally scanned and paid a one-time fee does not sit well with the union and its members. In September, the interactive media division of SAG-AFTRA that covers video game performers also voted to authorize a strike, with 98% of the votes in favor of the action.
“It does seem like finally the producers have realized that pushing around individual actors might work,” voice actor Ben Prendergast previously told Decrypt, “but the strategy falls apart when you try to push all of them.” Prendergast plays Fuse in Apex Legends and Tyr in God of War: Ragnarok.
While concerned about compensation and usage, Prendergast said he isn’t worried about losing his job to artificial intelligence.
“I just don’t think AI can write that and then produce that with my voice in a way that I can do it,” Prendergast said. “I can do a line in 100 different ways. But it’s down to my artistry as to which way that I choose to do the line that I know from experience is going to resonate most with the other character and the thing that I’m doing.”
Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to include comments and additional details from CD Projekt Red.