The company announced Wednesday during its annual Re:MARS conference, which focuses on artificial intelligence innovation, that it’s working on an update to its Alexa system that will allow the technology to mimic any voice, even Even that of a deceased family member.
In a video shown on stage, Amazon (AMZN) showed 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 audio in less than a minute to personalize it in a way that allows someone to spend hours in a recording studio, rather than spend hours in a recording studio. is done. past tense. Prasad did not elaborate on when this feature could be launched. Amazon declined to comment on a timeline.
Prasad said the concept is looking at new ways to add more “human characteristics” to artificial intelligence from Amazon, especially “in these times of the ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love.” That’s what we love,” Prasad said. “While AI may not eliminate that pain of loss, it can certainly make their memories last.”
Amazon has long used recognizable voices, such as the original voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy, and Shaquille O’Neill, to voice Alexa. But AI entertainment of people’s voices has also improved rapidly over the years, especially 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 looked like they were spoken by the late media personality. (This particular case caused a stir because it was not clarified in the film that the dialogue was generated by the AI and was not approved by Bourdain’s estate). “We might make a documentary-ethics panel about it later,” director Morgan Neville told The New Yorker as the film debuted last year. Recently, actor Val Kilmer, who lost his voice to throat cancer, partnered with startup Sonatic. AI-powered speaking voice for him in the new “Top Gun: Maverick” movie. According to Variety, the company used archival audio footage of Kilmer to teach an algorithm how to speak like an actor.
Adam Wright, a senior analyst at IDC Research, said he sees value in Amazon’s effort.
“I think Amazon is interested in doing this because they have the capability and the technology, and they’re always looking for ways to enhance the smart assistant and smart home experience,” Wright said. “Does it drive a deeper connection with Alexa, or does it just become a skill that some people look for from time to time.”
Amazon’s foray into personalized Alexa voices may conflict most with the extraterrestrial valley effect — recreating a voice that’s similar to a loved one but isn’t quite right, which leads to rejection by real humans.
“There are certainly some risks, such as the voice and resulting AI interaction not matching that person’s memories of loved ones,” said ABI Research’s Michael Inouye. “For some, they will see this as scary or outright terrifying, but for others it can be viewed in a more profound way such as by allowing a child to hear their grandparents’ voice, for example, perhaps for the first time. times and in a way it’s not a strict recording from the past.”
He believes, however, that the differing reactions to such announcements show how society will have to adjust to the promise of innovations and their ultimate reality in the years to come.
“We will definitely see more experiments and testing of this type – and there will still be a wide range of reactions, at least until we get to a higher comfort level or these things become more mainstream,” he said. Told.