Papercup, a London-based artificial intelligence startup, is aiming to bring human emotion to AI dubbing services after raising £16.2 million of Series A investment.

Its goal is to make the world’s video content watchable in any language through emotive and realistic synthetic voices and AI dubbing as it targets a $100 billion future market.

Around the world, billions of hours of video content are trapped in a single language. Founded in 2017, Papercup created an AI and machine learning-based system that translates people’s voices and ways of expression into other languages.

Customers upload their videos, choose a target language and then receive a translated version with a synthetic voiceover, indistinguishable from human voices.

The technology has already been used by media giants Sky News, Discovery and Business Insider, and was used to translate 30 seasons of Bob Ross’ iconic show ‘The Joy of Painting’. 

More than 300 million people have watched videos translated by Papercup over the past 12 months.

At the core of Papercup’s unique technology is the creation of expressive synthetic voices, which are specifically suited for video. Rather than leverage generic third-party AI voices that are intended for a range of uses such as chatbots and home assistants, Papercup has created its own catalogue of voices that offer realistic tones and emotions that are more engaging with viewers. 

This creates an enjoyable and authentic experience for viewers, complete with the subtlety and nuance of the original content.

Papercup’s emotive voices are complemented by its proprietary ‘human in the loop’ system, whereby translators annotate the content which is auto transcribed, translated and dubbed by AI. By applying human expertise at this stage, it says the quality of the video output is improved.

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“People retain up to 70% more information when watching videos dubbed in their native language,” said Jesse Shemen, CEO. 

“With truly emotive cross-lingual AI dubbing, we can tackle all forms of content, making video and audio more accessible and enjoyable for everyone. This funding will allow us to double down on our promising research and break into new content categories.”

Octopus Ventures leads the investment joined by Local Globe, Sands Capital, Sky and Guardian Media Ventures, Entrepreneur First, BDMI as well as a range of angel investors, including Des Traynor, co-founder of Intercom, and John Collison, co-founder of Stripe.

Existing angel investors include William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of Evi (now Amazon’s Alexa) and Zoubin Ghahramani, Senior Research Director at Google Brain, and former Chief Scientist at Uber. 

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Zoe Reich, investor, Octopus Ventures commented:  “Spotify has 3.2 million podcasts. Youtube 500 hours of video uploaded every minute. Discovery, 100,000 hours of documentaries. CNN 4 million video assets. 

“The volume of video and audio produced for consumption is rising exponentially, yet, only 1% is currently dubbed into multiple languages. 

“Papercup’s use of AI to provide affordable, high quality dubbing can unlock that content for audiences around the world and in, doing so, drive a 100 fold expansion in the video and audio translation market with Papercup at the forefront.”