The company that brought you a home robot with the tendency to “throw itself down” stairs and cashier-less grocery stores is now getting into the reincarnation business.
During a conference Amazon held in Las Vegas on Wednesday, the company previewed a new Alexa feature that will let the voice assistant emulate any person’s voice after hearing less than one minute of audio of them speaking — reports Reuters.
Rohit Prasad, a senior vice president at Amazon, said the functionality aims to “make the memories last” after “so many of us have lost someone we love” over the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it’s not hard to imagine how the ability to accurately mimic someone’s voice can be easily exploited. Microsoft recently limited the use of similar software, designed to assist people with speech impairments, to select businesses.
It’ll be interesting to see what safeguards Amazon puts in place for the feature once it goes live. The company is already in a bit of hot water over Alexa after it was found to be using voice data from the personal assistant to serve targeted ads to users earlier this year.
Amazon is looking to further its vision for companionship with this planned feature. According to Prasad, Amazon’s aim for Alexa is “generalizable intelligence.” That is a neural network’s ability to adapt to user environments and learn new concepts with little external input.
He added that the goal is “not to be confused with the all-knowing, all-capable, uber artificial general intelligence,” or AGI, that others such as Google parent Alphabet’s DeepMind unit and Elon Musk’s OpenAI venture are pursuing.
Amazon showed the planned feature off in a short video, where a child asked, “Alexa, can grandma finish reading me The Wizard of Oz?” Alexa obliged, changing her robotic voice to a soothing imitation of the voice of the child’s grandmother in real life.
Check out the video from the 1:02:39 mark below to see the demo:
Earlier this week, Amazon also announced new, fully autonomous robots for its warehouses.
What do you think of the new voice recreation feature Amazon is working on for Alexa? Let us know in the comments below.