Amazon has announced that it would add more ‘human attributes‘ to artificial intelligence, Alexa.
The company made this known on Wednesday, June 22, during its annual re:MARS conference, which focuses on artificial intelligence innovation, adding that it’s working on an update to its Alexa system that would allow the technology to mimic any voice, even a deceased family member.
According to a video shown on stage, Amazon (AMZN) demonstrated how, instead of Alexa’s signature voice reading a story to a young boy, it was his grandmother’s voice.
Amazon senior vice president, Rohit Prasad, said the updated system will be able to collect enough voice data from less than a minute of audio to make personalization like this possible, rather than having someone spend hours in a recording studio like how it’s done in the past. Prasad did not elaborate on when this feature could launch. Amazon declined to comment on a timeline.
The concept stems from Amazon looking at new ways to add more ‘human attributes’ to artificial intelligence, especially in these times of the ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love. While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last.
Amazon has long used recognizable voices, such as the real voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy and Shaquille O’Neal, to voice Alexa. But AI recreations of people’s voices have also increasingly improved over the past few years, particularly with the use of AI and deepfake technology. For example, three lines in the Anthony Bourdain documentary “Roadrunner” were generated by AI, even though it sounded like they were said by the late media personality.
A senior analyst at Idc Research, Adam Wright, posited that he sees the value in Amazon’s effort.
I think Amazon is interested in doing this because they have the capability and technology, and they are always searching for ways to elevate the smart assistant and smart home experience.
Whether it drives a deeper connection with Alexa, or just becomes a skill that some folks dabble with from time to time remains to be seen.
Micheal Inouye of ABI Research stated;
For some, they will view this as creepy or outright terrible, but for others it could be viewed in a more profound way such as the example given by allowing a child to hear their grandparent’s voice, perhaps for the first time and in a way that isn’t a strict recording from the past.
We’ll definitely see more of these types of experiments and trials — and at least until we get a higher comfort level or these things become more mainstream, there will still be a wide range of responses.