Amazon is developing a way for users to talk to their family members through the Alexa voice assistant, even after they die.
At Amazon Re: Mars Conference Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and chief scientist of the Alexa team, explained a feature that allows the voice assistant to emulate a specific human voice in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
In a demonstration video, one child said, “Alexa, can grandma finish reading The Wizard of Oz for me?”
Alexa acknowledged the request with the default robot voice, then immediately switched to a softer, more human tone that seemingly mimics the child’s family member.
The Alexa team has developed a model that enables its voice assistant to produce a high-quality voice with “less than a minute of recorded audio,” Prasad said.
The feature is currently under development, Prasad said. Amazon hasn’t said when the feature will be available to the public.
While it could reportedly be used to replicate any voice, Prasad suggested it could be used to commemorate a family member who has died.
Making artificial intelligence conversational and companion-like has become a key issue, especially given that “so many of us have lost someone we love during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Prasad said.
“Even though the AI can’t remove that pain of loss, it can definitely make the memories last,” he added.
Aiming to make conversations with Alexa more natural in general, the e-commerce giant has rolled out a number of features that allow its voice assistant to replicate even more human-like dialogue to asking user questions.