Amazon’s Alexa might soon replicate the voice of family members, even if they are dead.
The capability, unveiled at Amazon’s re:Mars Conference in Las Vega, is under development and would allow the virtual assistant to mimic the voice of a specific person based on a less than a minute of provided recording.
Rohit Prasad, senior vice-president and head scientist for Alexa, said at an event on Wednesday 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 into it.
The scientist said that these attributes have become even more important amid the pandemic when so many of us have lost ones that we love. 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, 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.
Amazon did not provide further details about the feature. The rollout is bound to spark more privacy concerns and ethical questions about consent.
(With Agency Inputs)