Amazon is figuring out a way for consumers to talk to their family members through its Alexa voice assistant, even after they’ve died.
At the Amazon Re: Mars conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and chief scientist for the Alexa team, spoke in detail about 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 confirmed the request with the standard robotic voice, then immediately switched to a softer, more human tone, seemingly imitating the child’s family member.
The Alexa team has developed a model that allows its voice assistant to produce high-quality voice with “less than a minute of recorded audio,” Prasad said.
The function is currently being developed, Prasad said. Amazon declined to say when the feature will be released to the public.
Although the feature can seemingly be used to play any voice, Prasad suggested that it could help remember a deceased family member.
Making artificial intelligence talkative and satellite-like has become a key focus, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, when “so many of us have lost someone we love,” Prasad said.
“Although AI cannot remove this pain of loss, it can definitely make memories last,” he added.
Amazon wants to make the conversation with Alexa more natural in general and has introduced a series of features that allow its voice assistant to reproduce human-like dialogue and even ask questions to the user.