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Amazon’s Alexa Wants To Haunt You With The Voices Of Your Dead Relatives, For Some Reason

Buried in the daily barrage of bad news and worrying developments in the American experiment these days was a report that one Google employee is worried an artificial intelligence created by the company has become sentient. In a completely unrelated story, Amazon apparently wants its smart devices to sound like a beloved but diseased person in an effort to… make you feel better?

Life in 2022 is hard enough, but on Wednesday Amazon showed off a new feature where its AI voice-activated technology can be trained to mimic an actual human’s voice thanks to a bit of machine learning. At Amazon’s MARS conference, Amazon’s head Alexa AI scientist detailed some features the team has worked on to give more human touches to the robotic voice ordinarily attributed to the device. In an effort to add “human-like empathy,” a video showed a child asking Alexa to read a story at bedtime in the voice of his grandmother. Who is, in this example, dead.

“As you saw in this experience, instead of Alexa’s voice reading the book, it’s the kid’s grandma’s voice,” Rohit Prasad said in the keynote. The scientist noted that “in these times of the ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love” the team wanted to include the feature to bring some of those dead back to life.

“While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last,” Prasad said.

According to The Verge, Amazon didn’t give an indication the feature would ever become widespread, but in theory it would need just a single minute of audio to learn how to mimic a dead person’s voice and make it its own. And while most technology is created with the best of intentions, there is something undeniably creepy about reanimating the voices of the dead. Reading a bedtime story is one thing, but this tech opens up a literal casket full of creepy hauntings, horrible pranks and disturbing opportunities if you pair a certain voice with a certain text.

Amazon would know the market better than I, but most people probably don’t need a dead relative informing them their grocery delivery just showed up on the front porch. You do have to admit, though, this is far more effective at bringing back the voices of the dead than that mummy whose windpipe was 3D printed back into working order.

We’ve come a long way, baby.

[via The Verge]

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