Amazon’s creepy new Alexa feature will mimic the voices of dead relatives

Amazon's Alexa will soon be able to speak in the voices of your dead relatives.

The voice assistant will mimic the sound of dead people and talk as they would if they were still around, Amazon has announced.

It can read a bedtime story just like someone’s dear departed mum. Or crack bad jokes just like dead dad.

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It will even be able to recount wartime stories as if grandma was still in the room.

The feature will arrive in a future update for the device.

Amazon said it would not eliminate pain of loss. Alexa’s senior vice-president Rohit Prasad said the goal was "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 where our dreams and science fictions are becoming a reality," he added.

The feature requires just a minute of recorded audio fed into the system. Artificial intelligence will then use that recording to construct an entire voice.

The company illustrated it by channelling the voice of a dead grandmother to read to a youngster. It showed a child asking Alexa to have Grandma finish reading me the Wizard Of Oz.

The device recognised the command, changed its voice and started reading the book in soft, soothing tones.

AI that can recreate people’s voices was used in new movie Top Gun: Maverick to read actor Val Kilmer’s lines after his delivery was affected by cancer.

But some have criticised voice-copying as creepy or deceptive.

Microsoft has restricted access to similar voice-recreating tools amid fears they could be used to create deepfake videos putting words in people’s mouths.

"Black Mirror" trended on Twitter in the wake of Alexa’s announcement as people compared it to the dystopian sci-fi series in which individuals grapple with the manipulative effects of cutting edge technology.


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