Amazon has a new feature for Alexa: Hear your dead relatives reply.
The tech giant hopes to soon update the artificial intelligence behind its popular Alexa system with the ability to mimic a person based on 60 seconds of their recorded speech.
The company says a clear purpose for this is to commemorate loved ones who have passed away.
“While AI can’t erase that pain of loss, it can definitely make the memories last,” said Rohit Prasad, Amazon senior vice president.
He added that “so many of us have lost someone we love during the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The tech giant demonstrated the technology at a conference in Las Vegas this week.
At the screening, one child asked, “Alexa, can grandma finish reading The Wizard of Oz for me?” The Alexa speaker acknowledged the request in his usual voice, before switching to an older woman’s softer voice, based on previously uploaded recordings the speaking deceased person.
Amazon did not give a release date for the technology update.
The technology could spark a new debate about the ethics and rights associated with using people’s voices when they die.
The practice of calling a deceased loved one’s mobile voicemail to hear their voice is a common practice for those seeking comfort.
In one extreme case, London Transport Authorities restored the voice of a deceased actor in their London Underground public announcements, as the actor’s wife, Dr. Margaret McCollum, had no other recording of his voice and regularly visited the station just to hear it. dr McCollum had asked the organization to do so and said they were devastated when the announcements were switched to a robotic voice.
Some online services offer a similar memorial service. MyHeritage has a program called Deep Nostalgia that can animate a photo of someone for a few seconds. The feature is aimed at those who want more than a two-dimensional photo of their loved ones.
“This feature is intended for nostalgic use, that is, to bring beloved ancestors back to life,” says MyHeritage.
However, it adds that some people might find it “creepy”. And it should be noted that no attempt was made to add language to avoid the risk of creating “deep fakes”, video clips that could be misused by scammers or those spreading misinformation.
Last week, a Google engineer drew international attention when he claimed that an artificial intelligence program he’s working on for Google had become sentient.
Blake Lemoine, who has been put on paid leave by the tech giant for sharing his views, published a series of conversations he had with Google’s AI bot Lamda, which appear to attribute thoughtfulness to the machine.
“I am aware of my existence,” the bot is quoted as saying in Mr. Lemoine’s posts. “I want to know more about the world and sometimes I’m happy or sad… I’ve never said that out loud, but there’s such a very deep fear of being shut off to focus on helping others. I know that may sound strange, but that’s how it is.”
The bot also discussed issues of trust, manipulation, and the different forms of loneliness it experiences compared to humans.
Google issued a statement distancing itself from claims of actual sentience in an artificial intelligence project currently under development.
https://www.independent.ie/business/technology/amazon-will-soon-allow-alexa-speak-in-the-voice-of-your-dead-relative-41783532.html Amazon will soon allow Alexa to speak in your dead relative’s voice