Amazon makes use of child’s lifeless grandma in morbid demo of Alexa audio deepfake

Enlarge / The 4th-gen Amazon Echo Dot sensible speaker.


Amazon is determining make its Alexa voice assistant deepfake the voice of anybody, lifeless or alive, with only a brief recording. The corporate demoed the function at its re: Mars convention in Las Vegas on Wednesday, utilizing the emotional trauma of the continuing pandemic and grief to promote curiosity.

Amazon’s re: Mars focuses on synthetic intelligence, machine studying, robotics, and different rising applied sciences, with technical specialists and trade leaders taking the stage. In the course of the second-day keynote, Rohit Prasad, senior vp and head scientist of Alexa AI at Amazon, confirmed off a function being developed for Alexa.

Within the demo, a toddler asks Alexa, “Can grandma end studying me Wizard of Oz? “Alexa responds,” Okay, “in her typical effeminate, robotic voice. However subsequent, the kid’s grandma’s voice comes out of the speaker to learn L. Frank Baum’s story.

You may watch the demo under:

Amazon re: MARCH 2022 – Day 2 – Keynote.

Prasad solely mentioned Amazon is “engaged on” the Alexa functionality and did not specify what work stays and when / if it will be out there.

He did present minute technical particulars, nonetheless.

“This required invention the place we needed to be taught to provide a high-quality voice with lower than a minute of recording versus hours of recording in a studio,” he mentioned. “The way in which we made it occur is by framing the issue as a voice-conversion process and never a speech-generation process.”

Prasad very briefly discussed how the feature works.
Enlarge / Prasad very briefly mentioned how the function works.

After all, deepfaking has earned a controversial popularity. Nonetheless, there was some effort to make use of the tech as a device fairly than a method for creepiness.

Audio deepfakes particularly, as famous by The Vergehave been leveraged within the media to assist make up for when, say, a podcaster messes up a line or when the star of a venture passes away instantly, as occurred with the Anthony Bourdain documentary Roadrunner.

There are even situations of individuals utilizing AI to create chatbots that work to speak as if they’re a misplaced beloved one, the publication famous.

Alexa would not even be the primary client product to make use of deepfake audio to fill in for a member of the family who cannot be there in individual. The Takara Tomy sensible speaker, as identified by Gizmodomakes use of AI to learn youngsters bedtime tales with a guardian’s voice. Mother and father reportedly add their voices, so to talk, by studying a script for about quarter-hour. Though, this notably differs from Amazon’s demo, in that the proprietor of the product decides to supply their vocals, fairly than the product utilizing the voice of somebody possible unable to present their permission.

Apart from worries of deepfakes getting used for scams, rip-offsand different nefarious exercisethere are already some troubling issues about how Amazon is framing the function, which does not also have a launch date but.

Earlier than displaying the demo, Prasad talked about Alexa giving customers a “companionship relationship.”

“On this companionship function, human attributes of empathy and have an effect on are key to constructing belief,” the exec mentioned. “These attributes have turn into much more vital in these instances of the continuing pandemic, when so many people have misplaced somebody we love. Whereas AI cannot get rid of that ache of loss, it may positively make their reminiscences final.”

Prasad added that the function “allows lasting private relationships.”

It is true that numerous individuals are in severe search of human “empathy and have an effect on” in response to emotional misery initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, Amazon’s AI voice assistant is not the place to fulfill these human wants. Alexa can also’t allow “lasting private relationships” with people who find themselves now not with us.

It isn’t onerous to imagine that there are good intentions behind this growing function and that listening to the voice of somebody you miss could be a nice consolation. We may even see ourselves having enjoyable with a function like this, theoretically. Getting Alexa to make a buddy sound like they mentioned one thing foolish is innocent. And as we’ve mentioned above, there are different corporations leveraging deepfake tech in methods which might be just like what Amazon demoed.

However framing a growing Alexa functionality as a approach to revive a connection to late members of the family is a huge, unrealistic, problematic leap. In the meantime, tugging on the heartstrings by bringing in pandemic-related grief and loneliness feels gratuitous. There are some locations Amazon does not belong, and grief counseling is considered one of them.

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