In the somewhat near future, Alexa might be getting a “voice-over”. In fact, the voice might sound familiar if Amazon is able to deliver on one of the goals it laid out for the smart assistant this past week.
Amazon recently announced that it’s working on an update to Alexa that would allow the technology to mimic any voice. The news came during the company’s annual re:MARS conference, during which Amazon showed how Alexa was reading a book to a young boy. In this case, the voice coming out of the speaker wasn’t Alexa’s signature sound, it was the voice of the boy’s grandmother.
That’s right, if Amazon has its way, Alexa will soon be able to collect voice data to make personalization possible. In fact, it will take less than a minute to collect that data according to Rohit Prasad, an Amazon senior vice president. It’s not clear when Amazon plans to launch this feature.
Zooming out, Amazon is constantly trying to add more “human attributes” to its existing AI capabilities. Prasad said this is especially true “in these times of the ongoing pandemic when so many of us have lost someone we love… While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last,” he said.
Deepfake technology has proliferated over the years outside of Amazon’s walls. Take the recent “Top Gun: Maverick” film, for example. In the blockbuster hit, Val Kilmer teamed up with Sonantic, to create an AI-driven voice for him given the fact that he lost his ability to speak due to throat cancer.
Morgan Neville, the director of the Anthony Bourdain documentary “Roadrunner” got in some hot water when he decided to generate the last three lines of Bourdain’s voice in AI. This was a bit controversial because the documentary didn’t fully disclose that the lines were AI-generated and they didn’t ask the Bourdain estate for permission.
The crux of the matter is that AI-generated voices that sound extremely realistic are here. They aren’t mainstream yet so in the meantime, there will be wildly varying opinions as to whether it’s a good or bad thing that your deceased grandma is reading her grandson a book.