Amazon’s Alexa could soon speak in a dead relative’s voice : NPR

by Msnbctv news staff

Amazon Echo and Echo Plus gadgets behind illuminated Echo Button gadgets throughout an occasion by the corporate in Seattle in September 2017.

Elaine Thompson/AP

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Elaine Thompson/AP

Amazon Echo and Echo Plus gadgets behind illuminated Echo Button gadgets throughout an occasion by the corporate in Seattle in September 2017.

Elaine Thompson/AP

Do you miss the sound of a lifeless relative’s voice?

Nicely worry not: Amazon unveiled a brand new function within the works for its digital assistant Alexa that may learn aloud in a deceased liked one’s voice primarily based on a brief recording of the individual.

“Whereas AI cannot remove that ache of loss, it will possibly undoubtedly make their reminiscences final,” mentioned Rohit Prasad, senior vice chairman and head scientist for Alexa, on Wednesday at Amazon’s re:MARS convention in Las Vegas.

In a video performed on the occasion, an Amazon Echo Dot is requested: “Alexa, can Grandma end studying me ‘The Wizard of Oz’?”

“OK,” Alexa’s voice responded.


“As an alternative of Alexa’s voice studying the e book, it is the child’s grandma’s voice,” Prasad mentioned. “We needed to be taught to provide a top quality voice with lower than a minute of recording.”

He added: “We’re unquestionably residing within the golden period of AI, the place our goals and science fiction have gotten a actuality.”

Certainly, the function instantly drew comparisons to fictional depictions of know-how, however ones extra bleak than what Prasad was possible referencing, like Black Mirror, the dystopian tv sequence that featured an episode wherein comparable know-how was deployed.

Reactions on Twitter ranged from “creepy” to “morbid” to “how about no,” as many on-line expressed unease at a function that brings a voice again from the lifeless.

The function remains to be in improvement, and Amazon wouldn’t say when it’d publicly launch, however its preview comes at a second when the cutting-edge capabilities of synthetic intelligence are underneath shut scrutiny.

Specifically, debate amongst researchers has sharpened about what is called deepfakes — video or audio that’s rendered with AI to make it seem as if somebody did or mentioned one thing that by no means occurred.

It additionally comes shortly after a Google engineer sparked controversy for arguing the corporate’s subtle chatbot communicated as if it was sentient, a declare that didn’t have the assist of the AI analysis neighborhood however nonetheless underscored the freakishly human-like communication expertise of the software program.

Huge Tech corporations are more and more learning AI’s impression on society. Microsoft just lately introduced it was limiting using software program that mimics an individual’s voice, saying the function could possibly be weaponized by these making an attempt to impersonate audio system as an act of deception.

Subbarao Kambhampati, a professor of laptop science at Arizona State College, mentioned he hopes Amazon displaying off a demo of the voice-replicating device makes the general public vigilant to using artificial voices in on a regular basis life.

“As creepy as it’d sound, it is a good reminder that we will not belief our personal ears these days,” Kambhampati mentioned. “However the sooner we get used to this idea, which remains to be unusual to us proper now, the higher we will probably be.”

Kambhampati mentioned the Alexa function has the potential to assist a bereft member of the family, although it must be weighed in opposition to quite a lot of ethical questions the know-how presents.

“For folks in grieving, this may truly assist in the identical approach we glance again and watch movies of the departed,” he mentioned. “Nevertheless it comes with critical moral points, like is it OK to do that with out the deceased individual’s consent?”

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