Amazon is developing a way for users to be able to talk to their family members using the Alexa voice assistant even after their death. During the Amazon Re:Mars conference, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist of the Alexa team, Rohit Prasad, spoke about a feature that allows the voice assistant to reproduce a specific human voice.
In the demo video, the child asked:
“Alexa, can Grandma finish reading The Wizard of Oz for me?”
Alexa’s assistant acknowledged the request in a standard robotic voice, then immediately switched to a softer, more human-like voice, apparently imitating a member of the child’s family.
The Alexa team has developed a model that allows the voice assistant to produce high-quality voice with “less than a minute of recorded audio.” This feature is currently under development. Amazon hasn’t said when it will go public.
While this feature can be used to play any voice, Prasad suggests it will be used to memorialize a deceased family member. A key challenge, Prasad said, was being able to make AI talkative and companion-like, especially since “many of us have lost someone we love” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“While AI cannot take away the pain of loss, it can definitely extend memory,” he added.