Amazon Alexa will soon have the ability to read stories using a loved one's voice - even if they are dead
Alexa gave a creepy demonstration at a conference on Wednesday
Your Amazon Alexa will soon be able to mimic any voice in the world, even if it's someone who is no longer with us.
Speaking at the company's annual conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, head scientist for Alexa, Rohit Prasad, announced the new feature, which will be implemented into the virtual assistant devices.
And not to creep you out, but it sounds like life is actually about to become a Black Mirror episode.
Black Mirror: Season 2, Episode 1 “Be Right Back” https://t.co/cudkMB0hPO
— the oracle 𝟙𝟛🐺 (@StormEllimac) June 23, 2022
The new addition to Alexa will enable the device to synthesise short audio clips into longer speech. This means Alexa will be able to mimic a voice after hearing less than a minute of audio.
Prasad said: "This required inventions where we had to learn to produce a high-quality voice with less than a minute of recording versus hours of recording in the studio. The way we made it happen is by framing the problem as a voice conversion task and not a speech generation path."
In a video played at the event, an Alexa device used the voice of a deceased grandma to read a grandson a bedtime story.
A young boy was shown asking: "Alexa, can grandma finish reading me the Wizard of Oz?"
Alexa obeyed the command and changed her voice from the normal, robotic sound, into one that sounded like the grandma when she was alive.
Prasad said the goal is to "make the memories last", after "so many of us have lost someone we love" during the pandemic.
"We are unquestionably living in the golden era of AI [Artificial Intelligence]," he said, "where our dreams and science fictions are becoming a reality."
But this area of AI has already faced criticism, for fear it could be used for the wrong reasons.
Microsoft Corp recently restricted which businesses could use its software to parrot voices, Reuters reports. The software aims to help people with speech impairments or other problems, but some worry it could also be used to spread political deepfakes.
Prasad said the aim of Amazon's new feature is "generalisable intelligence" or the ability to adapt to user environments and learn new concepts with little external input.
He said that goal is "not to be confused with the all-knowing, all-capable, uber Artificial General Intelligence". He was referring to AGI, which Elon Musk's artificial intelligence company OpenAI is seeking.
Amazon declined to share when the mimicking voice feature will come out.
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