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One Homepod feature we can do without is Alexa imitating your deceased family

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“AI can surely help their memories last, even though it can’t take away that agony of loss.”

image credits: theguardian

This week, Amazon unveiled a new Alexa function that enables customers to have their deceased relatives’ voices imitated by the virtual assistant. We’d be perfectly content if this option never appeared on HomePod.

According to Sky, Amazon’s chief Alexa AI scientist Rohit Prasad appeared on stage on day two of the MARS 2022 conference to introduce a new experimental Alexa feature that the company claims can utilise AI to imitate the voice of your deceased family.

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During a presentation, Alexa read The Wizard of Oz to a little youngster, who asked her to continue the narrative in his grandmother’s voice. With the child’s missing relative’s voice impersonated by artificial intelligence (AI), Alexa complies and continues the narrative.

AI “can’t eradicate the grief of loss, but it can absolutely make their memories last,” continued Prasad.

There is no sign that Amazon intends to publish this, which is great with us. The function is indeed “interesting,” and according to Amazon, the AI can pick up voice imitation skills after just 60 seconds of audio recordings. Twitter users commented on the technology, calling it “scary” and “disturbing,” and pointing out how much it reminded them of a Black Mirror episode.

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The action appears to be a textbook example of engineers being so preoccupied with whether they could that they never paused to consider whether they should. Siri, which is a smart assistant found on products like the iPhone 13 and HomePod mini and competes with many of Amazon’s smaller Alexa-powered speakers, is Apple’s answer to Alexa. You’d like to assume that Apple would never take the risk of developing a function like that. The new Digital Legacy feature in iOS 15 allows a selected user to access information from the accounts of friends and family members when they pass away, but the company has also looked into various approaches to lessen the sorrow of loss.

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