Are you missing a loved one or family member? Well, people may soon be able to have their deceased relative read the latest news headline with the introduction of Amazon Alexa’s new technology (If your mind immediately went to “Black Mirror,” you’re not alone. We thought the same thing).
During Amazon’s re:MARS conference, the tech giant announced that the new feature would be a way for users to hold on to their fondest memories by connecting to familiar voices in the afterlife.
During his presentation, Senior Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa Artificial Intelligence, Rohit Prasad, showed how the new voice options could mimic the voice of a dead relative. Once Alexa listens to the voice for at least one minute, the smart assistant can simulate the desired voice when speaking.
Making the seemingly eerie technology real, a video of the upcoming Alexa feature showed a child asking their grandmother to read them “The Wizard of Oz.” Immediately recognizing the request, Alexa’s voice changes to the voice of the child’s grandmother, reading the story in the new voice.
The new feature could “make memories last,” Prasad said. And while the latest technology may bring warm and fuzzy memories from loved ones, others are concerned about the ethical and security concerns that could arise from the new feature.
In a conversation with the Washington Post, Chief Executive of SocialProof Security Rachel Tobac discussed her concerns.
“I don’t feel our world is ready for user-friendly voice-cloning technology,” she said.
“If a cybercriminal can easily and credibly replicate another person’s voice with a small voice sample, they can use that voice sample to impersonate other individuals,” Tobac added about the security concerns. “That bad actor can then trick others into believing they are the person they are impersonating, which can lead to fraud, data loss, account takeover, and more.”
Despite the mixed feelings around the emerging feature, Amazon did not give any definite timeline for when the feature would be available for Alexa.
This announcement is also not the first time that using technology to hold on to deceased loved ones has been discussed. Last year, CNN reported that Microsoft received a patent to create conversational robots that could be modeled after anyone, including a deceased person.