Amazon unveiled a new feature in the works for its virtual assistant Alexa that can read aloud in a deceased loved one’s voice based on a short recording of the person.
“While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last,” said Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist for Alexa, on Wednesday at Amazon’s re:MARS conference in Las Vegas.
In a video played at the event, an Amazon Echo Dot is asked: “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading me ‘The Wizard of Oz’?”
“OK,” Alexa’s voice responded.
“Instead of Alexa’s voice reading the book, it’s the kid’s grandma’s voice,” Prasad said. “We had to learn to produce a high quality voice with less than a minute of recording.”
He added: “We are unquestionably living in the golden era of AI, where our dreams and science fiction are becoming a reality.”
The feature is still in development, and Amazon would not say when it might publicly launch, but its preview comes at a moment when the cutting-edge capabilities of artificial intelligence are under close scrutiny.
In particular, debate among researchers has sharpened about what is known as deepfakes — video or audio that is rendered with AI to make it appear as if someone did or said something that never happened.