Amazon reveals Alexa feature mimicking the voices of your dead relatives

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Amazon has unveiled an experimental Alexa feature that allows the AI ​​assistant to mimic the voices of users’ dead relatives.

The company demonstrated the feature at its annual MARS conference, showing a video of a child asking Alexa to read a bedtime story with his dead grandmother’s voice.

“As you saw in this experience, it’s not Alexa’s voice reading the book, it’s the child’s grandma’s voice,” said Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s chief scientist for Alexa AI. Prasad introduced the clip by saying that adding “human attributes” to AI systems is becoming increasingly important “in these times of the ongoing pandemic when so many of us have lost someone we love.”

“While AI can’t remove that pain of loss, it can definitely make her memories last,” Prasad said. You can check out the demo yourself below:

Amazon hasn’t given any indication if this feature will ever be released, but says its systems can learn to mimic a person’s voice from just a single minute of recorded audio. In an age of video and voice memo, this means it’s entirely possible for the average consumer to clone the voices of loved ones – or someone else they like.

Although this particular application is already controversial, with users on social media calling the feature “creepy” and “monstrous,” such an AI voice mimic has one are becoming more and more common in the past few years. These imitations are often referred to as “audio deepfakes” and are already used regularly in industries such as podcasting, film and television, and video games.

For example, many audio recording suites offer users the ability to clone individual voices from their recordings. For example, if a podcast host messes up her or his line, an audio engineer can edit what he or she said by simply typing in a new script. Replicating lines of seamless language requires a lot of work, but very small changes can be made with a few clicks.

The same technology was also used in the film. Last year, it was revealed that a documentary about the life of chef Anthony Bourdain, who died in 2018, used AI to clone his voice to read quotes from emails he sent. Many fans were disgusted with the technology’s use, calling it “creepy” and “deceptive”. Others defended the use of the technology as similar to other reconstructions used in documentaries.

Amazon’s Prasad said the feature could allow customers to form “lasting personal relationships” with the deceased, and it’s certainly true that many people around the world are already using AI for this purpose. People already have it have developed chatbots that imitate deceased relatives, such as training AI based on saved conversations. Adding accurate voices to these systems – or even video avatars – is entirely possible with today’s AI technology and will likely become more widespread.

However, whether customers want their dead loved ones to become digital AI puppets is another matter entirely.

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