Your dead loved ones are never really gone, they’re just trapped inside Amazon’s voice-assisted devices.
Wednesday, at Amazon’s conference re:MARS (machine learning, automation, robotics, and space) Rohit Prasad, SVP and head scientist of Alexa AI announced Alexa’s new supernatural talent: the ability to mimic someone’s voice using less than a minute of recording.
A spokesperson said in an email this is something Amazon has been exploring based on recent advancements in TTS (text-to-speech) technology. Amazon didn’t have a specific timeline to share, only that is it something it is currently working on.
Prasad described the voices of dead loved ones as a primary use case for this feature citing attributes of empathy and affect as keys to building trust with a companion, in this case, an AI-powered device. “These attributes have become even more important in the times of the ongoing pandemic when so many of us have lost someone we love,” said Prasad. “While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss it can definitely make their memories last.”
In the demo, a young boy is seen lying on the couch and flipping through a book. He then asks, “Alexa can Grandma finish reading me the Wizard of Oz.” Alexa says, “OK,” and Grandma’s voice starts reading as the boy happily listens while thumbing through the book.
Something tells me not everyone would react so calmly when they hear the voice of a dead loved one through an AI device.