XM45: An A.I. audio tribute to X Minus One and Luis van Rooten

Vintage illustration of a space ship hovering over a planet

The second story in my book “Blueberry & the Bear and Other Stories” is called The Spirit of XM45. It’s a short story about how the spirit of Christmas finds a way to reach a lonely engineer on a remote planet. It’s also my (hopefully) funny attempt at creating a sci-fi Christmas-themed story with leetspeak in its title.

In this experiment I aim at creating an audio tribute to a beloved old time radio programme and one of its first voice actors. X Minus One is an American half-hour science fiction radio drama series that was broadcast from April 24, 1955, to January 9, 1958, in various timeslots on NBC. Known for high production values in adapting stories from the leading American authors of the era, X Minus One has been described as one of the finest offerings of American radio drama and one of the best science fiction series in any medium.

Its first-ever episode is called “No Contact” and is based on an original story written by George Lefferts and Ernest Kinoy. The episode features Mexican-born American actor Luis d’Antin van Rooten (shown in the picture), a versatile and polyglot movie and voice actor, a skilled artist and designer, and the author of several humor books. Luis van Rooten passed away in 1973.

In the first episode of X Minus One, he voiced the captain of a ship traveling to a planet called Volta and at the same time trying to decipher the mystery of the Galactic Barrier and why 5 other ships had disappeared after crossing it.

X Minus One Episode 01 “No Contact” – 24 April 1955

I have extracted a sample of approximately 2 minutes of the actor’s voice from the original recording, cleaned it using the Studio Voice filter in Descript and made a voice clone using 11Labs‘ Voice Studio. I then used the cloned voice to read the XM45 story from my book. While I myself was impressed by the result, the voice clone lacks the range of expression and pathos that Luis van Rooten had in his work. Which is actually fine 🙂

I realize this could seem controversial but at the same time, I want to demonstrate that AI voice cloning can be used for something other than generating hate speech using famous people’s voices or scamming people over the phone.

This experiment was done with the best intentions, as a tribute to a great actor and a radio program that still captivates listeners almost 70 years after its first broadcast.

Here is the “recording”. Enjoy!

Blueberry & the Bear Episode 02 “The Spirit of XM45” – 25 March 2023

(Image illustration created in Midjourney using the prompt: a vintage illustration for an old sci-fi radio program from the 50s featuring a space ship travelling towards a distant planet passing through a meteor field –ar 3:2 –v 5)

Mix-master – the text content is prepared by human hands, using minimal assistance from AI tools (spelling, grammar).

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