Her name is Victoria, she’s a soccer fanatic and, whisper it, she’s from Spain.
That’s right the country you wanted to win the Women’s World Cup when the Lionesses beat the Matildas… but we digress.
In a timely INMA Ideas blog, Cadena SER voice projects lead Olalla Novoa Ojea, has the story of how the century-old Prisma Media radio station introduced a synthetic voice to its frenetic top-rating sports show.
Ojea says the process of bringing the AI-generated voice to the Carrusel Deportivo show was approached despacito. “That means, as you know, very carefully,” she says.
Creation of Victoria has been an ambitious quest for innovation, a fascinating journey involving teams throughout the company – editorial, tech, product, comms, sales, intellectual property department… you name it.
Indeed Carrusel Deportivo has narrated every major soccer competition in Spain for more than 70 years, and whenever there is an important match, Carrusel’s team dissects it.
A series of workshops defined the main characteristics of the voice’s personality, and everything else from age and gender to personality, name, and role that the synthetic voice should play.
“We decided it would be a female in her 40s, knowledgeable, trustworthy, and energetic, and after quite a few brainstorming sessions, it was host and producer Dani Garrido who named her Victoria, a powerful name that embodies both the zest for competition and the joy of a champion.”
After defining Victoria’s personality, sound DNA, and interaction behaviour, visual expression was created with the design of a logo in the shape of a soccer field crossed by a sound wave that will eventually evolve into a moving avatar with the help of OKB Interactive Studio.
The intense process of AI training came with the support of Monoceros Labs, and involved creating an extensive dataset covering Victoria’s different use cases with more than 4,200 sentences, high-quality studio recordings by four different female voices, and an iterative process training neural AI models until the voice matched the previously-defined requirements. Plus working on a dictionary to ensure Victoria’s correct pronunciation of thousands of names and soccer-related terms.
“Victoria, the voice of soccer, is also a story of cross-platform and cross-brand experimentation,” says Ojea. “She debuted on Carrusel Deportivo last November and also helps fans follow their teams 24/7 through Alexa. On Amazon’s platform, Victoria delivers a complete experience around the user’s favourite soccer team combining assets from Cadena SER, Diario As (Prisa’s sport newspaper), and sports data.
“By invoking Victoria on Alexa, a soccer fan can easily access any of Cadena SER’s live broadcasts of a team’s game. Victoria also provides information on upcoming matches, sends reminders, and informs about the day’s games.
“Additionally, it offers the chance to listen to the latest news for a team, updated live from Diario As newsroom and read by Victoria. Finally, users can check on statistics such as goals, penalties, shots, red and yellow cards, and fouls.”
The experience is designed around the user’s team, but it allows them to retrieve information for any of the 42 teams that currently play in Spain’s La Liga First and Second Division Championships, as well as last year’s World Championship.
Finally, this year Victoria is also going on tour. “As part of our century anniversary celebrations, Cadena SER will hold commemorative events throughout Spain,” she says. “Victoria will be the co-host, representing everything that the future of radio offers.”
Not only an innovative step forward for Cadena SER in the emerging world of synthetic media, Victoria is a bridge between analogue radio and new distribution channels focused on interactive audio.
“Above all, Victoria is a personalised product tailored to each of our listeners, offering them a combination of digital assets from different Prisa brands on demand to serve their needs better.”
Pictured: Dani Garrido came up with the name Victoria for the strong female AI voice