Skip to main content

Amazon feature has Alexa speaking in voice of late relative

Whether you find it comforting or creepy rather depends on your disposition, but Amazon has found a way to get Alexa to speak in the voice of anyone — including a deceased relative.

The feature was explained by Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist for the Alexa team, during Amazon’s Re:Mars conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday, June 22.

Related Videos
Amazon re:MARS 2022 - Day 2 - Keynote

Prasad said engineers had deployed A.I. technology to create a way for its digital assistant to mimic a voice after listening to “less than a minute” of recorded audio of the person speaking, while before hours of studio recordings would’ve been required.

In a demonstration video played at the event, a child says, “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading me The Wizard of Oz?” After acknowledging the child’s request in its usual voice, Alexa began speaking in a voice very similar to that of the child’s grandmother.

Prasad said engineers are still working on improving what is essentially a deepfake feature, and declined to say when Amazon might release it so that interested customers can get long-gone Grandad back up and running.

If raising the dead seems a bit much, you could also get Alexa to speak in the voice of someone living, such as your child, brother, sister, mom, dad, best buddy, or even yourself.

But at Wednesday’s event, Prasad highlighted the fact that the feature could be used to retain the memory of a loved one who has passed away, noting how many people have lost special people during the pandemic.

“While A.I. can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make the memories last,” he said.

The feature is one step away from enabling people to have natural and meaningful conversations with the dearly departed that include opinions and references to past events linked to that person, similar to an early Black Mirror episode (Be Right Back, season 2) where a woman is able to communicate with her late partner through messaging.

Amazon has made a small move toward this with Alexa’s Conversation Mode, which is aimed at offering more natural voice experiences with the digital assistant. Marry this with the voice of a deceased relative, and feed in some personality data for Amazon’s A.I. to process, and science fiction could soon become science fact.

Editors' Recommendations

New Ikea air quality sensor arrives just in time for spring
The Ikea air quality sensor on a stack of books.

Ikea might be best-known as the place to buy affordable furniture, but the company also has a surprisingly robust lineup of smart home products. The newest addition to the Ikea smart home family is the Vindstyrka smart indoor air quality sensor -- a tiny device that measures particulate matter (PM2.5) -- and it's slated to arrive this April.

The upcoming Vindstyrka air quality sensor features a minimalist, rectangular design that offers nothing more than a few buttons and a simple display highlighting PM2.5 levels, temperature, humidity, and total volatile organic compounds (TVOC). The sensor is built to work all on its own, although you’ll get more mileage out of the device by pairing it to the Ikea smartphone app. Doing this will allow you to activate other devices based on the current air quality, including Ikea's own Starkvind air purifier.

Read more
Blink Wired Floodlight Camera offers heaps of features and an affordable price tag
The Blink Wired Floodlight installed outside.

Blink, an Amazon-owned company that produces a wide variety of smart home gadgets, today announced the Blink Wired Floodlight Camera. The affordable device clocks in at just $99 yet manages to offer 1080p video capture, 2,600 lumens of LED lighting, motion detection, and several other premium features.

While Blink’s catalog is comprised of several indoor and outdoor cameras, this is the company’s first true floodlight. Previously, homeowners needed to purchase a Floodlight Mount for the Blink Outdoor Camera, and even then they would only benefit from 700 lumens of LED lights. The Blink Wired Floodlight Camera, meanwhile, is a standalone product that doesn’t require a secondary purchase -- pick it up for $99, and you’re ready for installation.

Read more
Save money on your utility bills with these smart home gadgets
The Google Nest Learning Thermostat in stainless steel.

Smart home gadgets can do more than respond to voice commands or automate your household -- they can also save you money. It might require a hefty initial investment, but once your smart home is up and running, it’s not uncommon to see big reductions across most of your utility bills. If you’re looking to save a few extra bucks every month, here are some easy ways to save money with smart home devices.
Upgrade to a smart thermostat

Arguably the best way to save money on your energy bills is by switching to a smart thermostat. These come in all shapes and sizes, but your best bet is to spring for a premium model that offers advanced learning capabilities -- such as the Nest Learning Thermostat. Products in this category give you the best control of your HVAC system, as they’ll actively monitor your usage and suggest ways to be more efficient.

Read more