Amazon’s Alexa could soon mimic the voices of dead relatives (Image: Pexels)
Seattle: Amazon’s Alexa may soon be able to replicate the voices of family members — even if they’re dead. The capability, unveiled at Amazon’s Re:Mars conference in Las Vegas, is in development and will allow the virtual assistant to mimic a specific person’s voice based on a provided recording in less than a minute.
Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and principal scientist at Alexa, said at the event on Wednesday that the desire behind the feature was to instill more trust in users’ interactions with Alexa by instilling more “human qualities of empathy and influence”.
“These attributes have become even more important during the ongoing pandemic, when many of us have lost loved ones,” Prasad said.
“While AI may not eliminate that pain of loss, it can certainly make their memories last.” In a video played by Amazon at the event, a young child asks “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading The Wizard of Oz to me?” Alexa then accepts the request, and changes to another voice, imitating the baby’s grandmother. The voice assistant then continues to read the book in the same voice.
To create the feature, Prasad said the company would have to learn to create “high-quality sound” with short recordings, as opposed to recording hours in the studio. Amazon did not provide further details about the feature.
The rollout will raise more privacy concerns and ethical questions about consent.
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