Amazon demonstrates Alexa mimicking the voice of a deceased relative

Amazon is inventing a way for users to talk to their family members through its Alexa voice assistant, even after they die.

At Amazon’s Re:Mars conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and chief scientist of the Alexa team, described a feature that allows the voice assistant to replicate a specific human voice.

In a demonstration video, a child said, “Alexa, can Grandma read me the Wizard of Oz?”

Alexa acknowledged the request in the default robotic voice, then immediately switched to a softer, more human tone, seemingly mimicking the child’s relative.

The Alexa team has developed a model that allows the voice assistant to produce a high-quality voice with “less than a minute of recorded audio,” Prasad said.

The feature is currently under development, Prasad said. Amazon has not said when the feature will be rolled out to the public.

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While it could ostensibly be used to replicate any voice, Prasad suggested it could be used to commemorate a deceased relative.

Making artificial intelligence conversational and companionable has become a major focus, especially given that “so many of us have lost someone we love” during the Covid-19 pandemic, Prasad said.

“While AI can’t take away that pain of loss, it can certainly make the memories lasting,” he added.

Wanting to make talking to Alexa in general more natural, the ecommerce giant has rolled out a range of features that allow its voice assistant to mimic a more human-like dialogue, even to the point of asking a user questions.

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