In news that is certainly set to raise some eyebrows, Amazon announced an experimental feature for its voice assistant, Alexa, that will let it imitate the voices of dead relatives.
At Amazon’s annual MARS conference, the company showed off a demo in which Alexa reads a bedtime story to a child using the voice of his dead grandmother.
Amazon’s head Alexa AI scientist Rohit Prasad said the feature is meant to highlight Alexa’s “human attributes” which have become more important “in these times of the ongoing pandemic when so many of us have lost someone we love.”
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Prasad added that while AI can’t eliminate “that pain of loss” it can carry on the memories of the deceased.
Amazon claims that its AI will be able to imitate someone’s voice after listening to just a minute of their recorded voice.
Details of how this new AI works aside, the internet is already discussing the ethics of such a tool. After all, anything that was the subject of an episode of Black Mirror can’t possibly be something people are clamoring for.
It should be noted that Amazon isn’t the only company experimenting with using AI to memorialize deceased loved ones. In 2021 Microsoft patented a tool that could potentially turn deceased relatives into chatbots users could communicate.
And it’s clear that raising the dead with technology is becoming the norm, as seen with instances in which CGI was used to bring back Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One, or Anthony Bourdain’s voice in a recent documentary about the travel author.
Would an AI imitating deceased relatives interest you? Personally, I’d rather not though it doesn’t seem to be stopping tech companies from exploring the field.
Matt TM Kim is IGN’s News Editor. You can reach him @lawoftd.