Amazon’s Alexa might soon replicate the voice 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 the voice of a specific person based on less than a minute of recording provided.
Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist for Alexa, said at the event Wednesday that the desire behind the feature was to build greater trust in the interaction users have with Alexa putting more “empathy and affect of human characteristics.”
“These attributes have become even more important during the ongoing pandemic when so many of us have lost ones that we love,” Prasad said. “While AI can’t eliminate that pain, it can definitely make their example last.”
In a video played by Amazon at the event, a young child asks “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading 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 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.
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