The latest version of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant may sound uncannily similar.
During its annual re:MARS conference, which focuses on artificial intelligence innovation, the business said on Wednesday that it is working on an update to its Alexa system that will allow the technology to mimic any voice, including that of a deceased family member.
Amazon demonstrated on stage how, instead of Alexa’s signature voice reading a story to a young boy, it was his grandmother’s voice.
According to Rohit Prasad, an Amazon senior vice president, the upgraded technology will be able to collect enough speech data from less than a minute of audio to allow for such customisation, rather than having someone spend hours in a recording studio as in the past. Prasad did not say when this feature might be available. Amazon declined to provide a timeline.
Amazon is exploring for new methods to add more “human traits” to artificial intelligence, especially “in these times of the global pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love,” Prasad explained. “While AI cannot take away the agony of loss, it can certainly make their memories last.”
Amazon has long employed recognisable talents to voice Alexa, including the real voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy, and Shaquille O’Neal. However, AI recreations of people’s voices have improved in recent years, thanks in part to the usage of AI and deepfake technology.
Three statements in the Anthony Bourdain documentary “Roadrunner,” for example, were generated by AI yet sounded like they were said by the late media figure. (This case caused controversy because it was not made explicit in the film that the dialogue was generated by AI and had not been approved by Bourdain’s estate.) When the film premiered last year, director Morgan Neville told The New Yorker, “We can have a documentary-ethics conference about it later.”
(Adapted from CNN.com)