Alexa to speak in the voice of dead relatives ‘to make memories last’, Amazon says

Amazon’s Alexa may soon be able to mimic the voice of dead relatives in its latest plans to “make memories last”.

The online retail giant showed off the new technology at its re:MARS conference in Las Vegas which looks at artificial-intelligence for machine learning, automation, robotics and space.

Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s Alexa AI senior vice president and head scientist, said it was Amazon’s way of bringing people closer to their relatives who were lost in the coronavirus pandemic.

He said the plan 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,” he added.

“While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last.”

He then went on to show a video of a little boy hearing a bedtime story, read through Alexa playing the voice of his dead grandmother.

Amazon has already developed voice synthesising tech to let Alexa mimic the voices of celebrities, which has previously required an individual to record dozens of hours of audio.

The e-retailer said it has now developed a way to replicate a voice in high quality using less than one minute of recorded speech.

Mr Prasad said his company’s engineers were able to do this “by framing the problem as a voice-conversion task, and not a speech-generation task”.

He added: “We are unquestionably living in the golden era of AI, where our dreams and science fiction are becoming a reality.”

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