Amazon’s Alexa could soon replicate the voices of family members – even if they are dead.
The capability, unveiled at Amazon’s Re:Mars conference in Las Vegas, is in development and would allow the virtual assistant to mimic the voice of a specific person based on less than a minute of recording.
Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist for Alexa, said that the desire behind the feature was to build greater trust in the interactions users have with Alexa by putting more “human attributes of empathy and affect”.
“These attributes have become even more important during the ongoing pandemic when so many of us have lost ones that we love,” Mr Prasad said. “While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last.”
In a video played by Amazon at the event, a young child asks “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading me the Wizard Of Oz?”
Alexa then acknowledges the request and switches to another voice mimicking the child’s grandmother. The voice assistant then continues to read the book in that same voice.
To create the feature, Mr Prasad said the company had to learn how to make a “high-quality voice” with a shorter recording, as opposed to hours of recording in a studio.
The rollout is likely to spark more privacy concerns and ethical questions about consent.