In news that is sure to raise eyebrows, Amazon announced an experimental feature for its voice assistant, Alexa, that will allow it to imitate the voices of deceased relatives.
At Amazon’s annual MARS conference, the company showed a demo in which Alexa reads a bedtime story to a child in his late grandmother’s voice.
Amazon’s chief Alexa AI scientist Rohit Prasad said the feature aims to highlight the “human qualities” of Alexa that have become more important “in these times of the ongoing pandemic where so many of us have lost someone we love.”
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Prasad added that while AI cannot eliminate “that pain of loss”, it can perpetuate the memories of the deceased.
Amazon claims its AI will be able to imitate someone’s voice after just a minute of listening to their recorded voice.
Details of how this new AI works aside, the internet is already discussing the ethics of such a tool. After all, everything that was the subject of an episode of Black Mirror couldn’t possibly be something people ask for.
It should be noted that Amazon is not the only company experimenting with using AI to commemorate deceased loved ones. In 2021, Microsoft patented a tool that could potentially turn deceased relatives into chatbots for users to communicate with.
And it’s clear that raising the dead with technology is becoming the norm, as evidenced by cases where CGI was used to bring Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin back in Rogue One, or the voice of Anthony Bourdain in a recent travel author documentary. .
Would an AI imitating deceased relatives interest you? Personally, I’d rather not do that, although it doesn’t stop tech companies from exploring the field.
Matt TM Kim is the news editor of IGN. you can reach him @lasoftd†