Sunday, 26 Jun 2022

Amazon’s Alexa could turn dead loved ones’ voices into digital assistant

Amazon’s Alexa could turn dead loved ones’ voices into digital assistant


Amazon’s Alexa could turn dead loved ones’ voices into digital assistant

Amazon plans to let people turn their dead loved ones' voices into digital assistants, with the company promising the ability to "make the memories last".

The company is developing technology that will allow its Alexa digital assistant to mimic the voice of anyone it hears from less than a minute of provided audio, Rohit Prasad, its senior vice-president and head scientist, said on Wednesday. He added that during the coronavirus paramedic "so many of us have lost someone we love".

While no timescale was given for the launch of the feature, the underlying technology has existed for several years. The company gave a demonstration where the reanimated voice of an older woman was used to read her grandson a bedtime story, after he asked Alexa: "Can grandma finish reading me the Wizard of Oz?"

Prasad said: "The way we made it happen is by framing the problem as a voice conversion task and not a speech generation path."

Beyond the initial demonstration, details were scarce. The technology was announced at the company's re:Mars conference, focusing on its "ambient computing" achievements in the realms of machine learning, automation, robots and space.

Amazon's aim for its voice assistant is "generalisable intelligence", Prasad added, contrasting it with "all-knowing, all-capable, uber-artificial general intelligence" of science fiction.

Microsoft will require companies to apply for permission to make artificial voices, and last month began watermarking them with an inaudible signal that would allow it to identify misuse.

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