Vocaloid is a new Yamaha product, coming in January 2004, that creates a synthetic singing voice and will retail for about $200. It appears to use a phoneme-assembly technique similar to the latest speech synthesizers. The audio demos are in a weird plug-in format, but Virtual Turntable has MP3 versions available for download.
Judging from the demo, this won’t be replacing real singers anytime soon–except possibly Cher. Nonetheless, it’s impressive by speech synthesis standards, and as a musician, I can imagine it being very useful for prototyping vocals and backup singing.
Since this isn’t exciting enough to make news outside the music geek community, the New York Times had to exaggerate a bit. Their article calls it "exceedingly lifelike" and "concert quality" and ruminates about how it could be used to "reanimate" Elvis or to forge audio recordings of George Bush and Tony Blair. It makes its final departure from reality with this classic line: "In fact, in today’s world of computer-produced music, who needs humans at all?"