Amazon is teaching Alexa to mimic the voice of dead relatives

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,138   +154
Staff member
A hot potato: Amazon is developing capabilities that will allow its Alexa voice assistant to mimic any human voice after hearing them speak for less than a minute. Dismissing the potential creepiness of the feature, some are concerned about the potential for abuse.

Rohit Prasad, who leads the Alexa team at Amazon, said the goal of the project is to "make the memories last" after "so many of us have lost someone we love" as a result of the pandemic.

Alexa could be trained to imitate a voice using pre-recorded audio, meaning the person doesn't have to be present – or even alive – to serve as a source. In a video segment shown during a conference this week, a child asked Alexa if grandma could finish reading The Wizard of Oz. Sure enough, Alexa changes voices to mock the child's grandmother and finish reading the story.

Prasad said during the presentation that Alexa now receives billions of requests per week from hundreds of millions of Alexa-enabled devices across 17 languages in more than 70 countries around the globe.

The potential for abuse seems high. For example, the tool could be used to create convincing deepfakes for misinformation campaigns or political propaganda. Fraudsters could leverage the capabilities for financial gain, like in 2020 when scammers tricked a bank manager into transferring $35 million to fund an acquisition that didn't exist.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Is Amazon taking the concept of voice cloning a bit too far here, or are you intrigued by the idea of having a "conversation" with someone from the grave?

Image credit: Jan Antonin Kolar

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Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 694   +1,089
If it wasn't Amazon, someone else would be doing it anyways. I don't see the point in fighting against obvious technological pathways like these. Next, you can expect Facebook or someone else to take a video clip of someone and beam them into the Metaverse, with voice, body, and movements being accurate.
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 4,446   +2,416
I've seen videos of people giving someone that lost someone a teddy bear with the deceased loved ones voice that plays a few words or sentences when you squeeze the paw, and the reaction has always been positive. Usually ending with crying followed by hugs and a thank you.

As for someone wanting to hear a deceased persons voice every time they trigger their home assistant, that would be really weird. A little girl wanting to hear grandma read her a story - not so weird.
 

nismo91

Posts: 1,214   +261
Can't wait for this to be misused by some people. people will do anything these days, wouldn't surprise me if some people really wanted to hear the voices of their ex-lover or one night stand again lol

I think these sort of deepfakes voice would bring more harm than benefit. as mentioned in the article, a bank manager was fooled into transferring money. with this tech available for public it's only gonna get worse.