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Alexa's latest feature? Impersonating the dead

Alexa's latest feature? Impersonating the dead
(Image credit: Amazon)

OK, so this is a little odd. Amazon has demonstrated an experimental feature that allows its Alexa voice assistant to impersonate the dead. 

At its Amazon re:MARS 2022 conference in Las Vegas, Amazon's Rohit Prasad showed how Alexa could read a story by mimicking the voice of a deceased relative. In the video below, a boy's voice says "Alexa, can grandma finish reading me The Wizard of Oz?" And that's precisely what happens.

The idea is to preserve the memory of those who have passed on, especially with so many having lost loved ones during covid. “While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last,” said Prasad.

Maybe. But as so often with tech, what might have seemed a noble idea during a brainstorming session comes across, perhaps, as a little creepy in the real world. 

Still, you can't deny it's clever. Amazon claims it can learn to imitate someone's voice from just one minute of recorded audio. There is no word on whether this feature will ever be made publicly available – re:MARS is a conference dedicated to the future of machine learning, so is full of this kind of future-gazing. But if it does, you could be using it on your Amazon Echo Show 10 one day.

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Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.