Amazon has just presented a new feature allowing Alexa to reproduce the voices of deceased people.
Take anyone’s voice, from just one minute. This is the bet that Amazon launched this week about a new feature of its voice assistant Alexa. The announcement comes from Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s chief scientist for Alexa. He said at an event on Wednesday that he and his team had developed a feature that allows Alexa to reproduce a person’s voice from a short audio clip.
In a small presentation video, we can see a voice assistant from Amazon. A little boy then comes to question him: “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading the Wizard of Oz to me?” The device then responds with its typical robotic voice before completely changing its tone and taking on the famous grandmother’s voice to continue reading.
A new way to learn for Alexa
According to Prasard, behind this feature, it was necessary to completely overhaul the way Alexa analyzes a voice. Whereas voice assistants are basically educated with sounds made in the studio. The audio clips of the people whose voice Alexa must reproduce are here of less good quality, and above all, much shorter.
According to Prasard, this new option could allow many people to hear again from loved ones they lost during the Covid-19 pandemic. “While AI can’t eliminate this pain of loss, it can certainly make their memories last”did he declare.
A feature that is already debating
If this statement made this week suggests that the functionality could soon see the light of day, Prasard did not risk giving a timetable. A spokesperson for Amazon, contacted following this declaration, did not want to communicate on the subject either, explaining that Amazon would do so when the time was right.
A new feature still not launched, but which is already making a lot of noise in the world of new technologies. Many people are indeed frightened to see such a rapprochement between humans and robotics. The two universes could eventually become so close that many worry that they no longer see a border, or that the latter is too blurred.
If the technology and the AI seem sufficiently developed to allow the arrival of functionality of this kind, it will now be necessary to know if our conscience accepts it. One thing is certain, the day after Prasard’s announcement, there were many reactions, and not all of them congratulated the engineer on his discovery, far from it.