Alexa has been able to speak with the voice of celebrities in the United States for a while now, and in some countries it offers the option to speak with a female or male voice.
What if you could ask Alexa to speak to you in the voice of a friend or family member?
In a presentation on artificial intelligence at the re:MARS conference, Amazon demonstrated exactly this capability. Alexa’s Artificial Intelligence Team lead scientist Rohit Prasad said “The human attributes of empathy and affection are key to building trust…which have become more important in these times of ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone dear to us.
In the demo, a child asks “Alexa, can grandma finish reading the Wizard of Oz to me?” to which, in her grandmother’s voice, comes the response “Ok” and then a short excerpt from the book.
It does this by using less than 60 seconds of recorded audio from the person speaking and is able to turn it into a high-quality AI voice that Alexa can use to say anything, not just read. books.
Prasad hasn’t said anything more about the feature, so it’s unclear when (or even if) it will be made available to consumers.
Depending on what you think, listening to the voice of a deceased family member could be a way to “liven up one’s memories”, as Prasad put it, acknowledging that it certainly can’t erase the pain of that loss. .
Naturally, he did not mention the disadvantages of the technology, which could lead to abuse. For example, it would be easy to make Alexa simulate anyone’s voice, which could be used for fraud or other malicious activity.
Amazon isn’t the only company developing a way to clone people’s voices. Just two days ago, Microsoft published a blog post about building AI systems responsibly.
He said that for Azure AI Custom Neural Voice, he had “restricted customer access to the service, ensured that acceptable use cases were proactively defined, and implemented technical safeguards to help ensure active customer engagement.” by creating a synthetic voice.
So it seems unlikely that Amazon will launch a voice cloning feature soon.
These are the best smart speakers you can buy right now.