In cooperation with the Studio Shenlouzhi, iFLYTEK recently showcased a short film featuring the story of a young cook in Suzhou City during the Ming Dynasty, including narration in the Suzhou dialect produced by the iFLYTEK’s artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
Following an earlier film released in late 2021 on life in ancient Suzhou, the production tells the story of a young cook who was too busy to watch her favorite Kunqu Opera. As she was cooking for her guests, she noticed a Kunqu Opera actor who was sobbing alone after being scolded by the troupe leader. The cook brought him a dish she had prepared, and the actor repaid her kindness with a performance.
To better present the distinctive culture in Suzhou, the recent film adopted the local dialect for all conversations and narration using iFLYTEK’s AI technology. In addition to the distinctive Suzhou dialect, the short film producers also presented buildings, furniture, and kitchen tools reminiscent of the ancient Ming Dynasty.
iFLYTEK had challenged itself to recognize and synthesize the Suzhou dialect, which originates from a wide range of sources and has developed many variants in different areas. iFLYTEK researchers spent three years accumulating a collection of speech recordings while conducting constant iterative training of AI technologies to develop natural synthesized Suzhou dialect speech capability, with emotions imbued.
Based on these breakthroughs, the iFLYTEK IME business unit and the iFLYTEK Suzhou Institute, in cooperation with the Studio Shenlouzhi and the Jiangsu Culture Broadcast, worked to combine traditional culture and the emerging AI technology to produce films that appeal to both diverse audiences.
The iFLYTEK IME business unit launched the Dialect Protection Project in 2017 and has since worked to bring various dialects back into people’s life through AI technological innovations, according to Cheng Kun, director of the business unit. As of now, the iFLYTEK researchers have achieved advancements in speech recognition, synthesis, and translation for multiple regional and ethnic dialects. They hope to expand their partnerships to protect dialects using scientific methods and explore more scenarios for extensive dialect use.