Alexa impersonating your dead relatives is one Homepod feature we can do without

Amazon has this week revealed a new Alexa feature that lets its virtual assistant mimic the voice of users’ dead relatives, a feature we’d be quite happy never to see on HomePod.

As reported by Sky, on day two of Amazon’s MARS 2022 conference Amazon’s head Alexa AI scientist Rohit Prasad took to the stage to unveil a new experimental Alexa feature the company says can use AI to mimic the voice of your dead relatives.

A demonstration featured Alexa reading the Wizard of Oz to a child, who then asks Alexa to finish the story in the voice of his grandma. Alexa complies and continues the story using an AI-generated voice that mimics the child’s lost relative.

Prasad went on to say that while AI “can’t eliminate the pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last.”

There is no indication Amazon is planning to officially release this, which is just fine with us. The feature is certainly “interesting”, and Amazon says the AI can learn to imitate a voice using just 60 seconds of recorded audio. Commenters on Twitter called the technology “creepy” and “disturbing” and noted the stark likeness to an episode of Black Mirror.

The move seems like a classic case of engineers so caught up with whether they could, that they never stopped to ask whether they should. Apple, of course, has its own Alexa rival in Siri, used a smart assistant on devices like the iPhone 13 and HomePod mini, which competes with a lot of Amazon’s smaller Alexa-powered speakers. You’d like to think that Apple wouldn’t ever venture to create a similar feature. The company has however explored other ways to make dealing with loss less painful, with a new Digital Legacy feature in iOS 15 that lets a designated user access information from the accounts of friends and family when they’re gone.

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