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The Last of Us voice actor promotes ‘voice NFTs,’ pulls out after criticism

Ubiquitous voice actor Troy Baker joins other VO talent in vague AI-powered scheme

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Nolan North and Troy Baker speak onstage during Marvel Game Panel at New York Comic Con 2019 Photo: Getty Images for ReedPOP
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Troy Baker, the voice behind characters like Joel from The Last of Us, Jonesy in Fortnite, and both Batman and The Joker in multiple Batman video games, has a new role: a spokesperson for a new type of non-fungible token (aka NFT) built around voices called, naturally, Voice NFT. While the actual real-world implementation of those voice-based NFTs is unclear, Baker’s backing of the new scheme was met with massive blowback Friday when he announced his involvement on Twitter.

Baker announced he was throwing his weight behind NFTs, a controversial blockchain-built technology that purports to offer ownership claims of digital assets, in a tweet promoting Voiceverse, which says it will provide “unlimited, perpetual access to the underlying AI voice that the NFT represents ownership of.”

“If you own a Voice NFT, you can create all kinds of voice content, and you will OWN all of the IP,” Voiceverse says.

It’s not clear exactly what Baker’s involvement is with Voiceverse, as the voice actor said he’s partnering with the company “to explore ways where together we might bring new tools to new creators to make new things, and allow everyone a chance to own & invest in the IP’s they create.” Voiceverse is only on step one of its planned roadmap, so Baker’s pie-in-the-sky description of his partnership role is appropriately vague.

Joining Baker in promoting Voiceverse is actor Andy Milonakis, star of The Andy Milonakis Show sketch comedy series and voice of NEPTR on Adventure Time, and Charlet Chung, the voice of D.Va in Overwatch and Seraph in Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

Response to Baker’s tweet — seemingly intensified by his preemptive use of “You can hate. Or you can create.” — has been harsh. Followers and fans have fired back at Baker’s involvement in the NFT scheme, highlighting the potential environmental impact of and scams associated with NFT sales.

“You can create without NFTs,” said game developer Chandana Ekanayake in a response to Baker. “Whatever grand scheme they’re promising you it’s not going to be worth it.”

“‘You can hate or you can create’ uh no? You can simply choose not to add your value into an embarrassing backward-ass garbage technology that exists only to suck money from the pockets of ignorant folks,” added streamer Lance McDonald.

Baker’s announcement tweet has over 8,000 quoted retweets, the vast majority of them negative, a textbook example of being ratioed on Twitter. The voice actor later responded to the blowback saying that he “always want to be a part of the conversation, even if sometimes that finds me in the midst of a loud one” and that he “appreciate[s] y’all sharing your thoughts and giving me a lot to think about.” He added, as an apparent semi-apology, “The ‘hate/create’ part might have been a bit antagonistic…”

Regardless of response, Baker and his fellow voice actors do not appear to be distancing themselves from Voiceverse, which says on its website that owners will be able to use its voice NFTs “for in-game chats, zoom calls, YouTube & Tiktok, and create whatever content you desire.”

On Twitter, Voiceverse’s creators attempted to explain “why our Voice NFTs are different from just owning jpegs,” referring to a more common form of NFT ownership of digital images and movies.

They added, over a series of tweets:

Voiceverse also attempted to get ahead of environmental impact concerns, “We are working hard to move our Voice NFTs to a much more environmentally friendly [manner] in the future ...” The creators also tried to address another logical concern: that AI-driven voiceover technology would automate and eliminate the need for actual human voice actors. “Voice NFTs provide royalties to the original voice actor who was involved in building the NFT,” Voiceverse said. “If the value of the Voice NFT rises, the voice actor also benefits from the increased value. We are always keeping the human in the loop.”

Based on its bio on social media, Voiceverse will use Lovo, a self-described next-generation AI voiceover and text-to-speech platform with human-like voices. Lovo’s technology is said to work for marketing, phone calls, games, animation, and other mediums. (It’s also worth noting that Voiceverse appears to have scrubbed that its Voice NFTs are “powered by Lovo” on Instagram and Twitter.)

Update (Jan. 31): On Monday, a little over two weeks after Baker’s original announcement, the actor said on Twitter that he has backed away from partnering with Voiceverse “after careful consideration.”

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