Amazon’s plans to make Alexa imitate any human voice divide Twitter users

  • An Amazon executive said his team taught Alexa to mimic voices with short audio clips.
  • The ability can help people remember loved ones who died of COVID-19, the executive said.
  • Many Twitter users have expressed concern over potential abuses of the technology.

Amazon teaches Alexa to imitate anyone’s voice, dead or alive, from just a one-minute recording of that voice.

Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s chief scientist for Alexa, said during a live event on Wednesday that his team asked Alexa to pick up a voice from a short audio clip and convert it to a longer audio output. long. Prasad was presenting at Amazon’s re:Mars conference in Las Vegas.

He showed a short video of how people might use Alexa’s voice-changing ability in real life. In the clip, a boy asks, “Alexa, can grandma finish reading the Wizard of Oz to me?”

The smart speaker confirmed the request in its default chirpy voice, then switched to a less robotic voice that narrated an excerpt from the children’s novel.

“It required inventions where we had to learn how to produce a high quality voice with less than a minute of recording versus hours of recording in the studio. The way we did that is to define the problem as a speech conversion task and not a speech generation path,” Prasad said.

Prasad said Alexa’s ability to impersonate familiar voices is especially crucial now, as many people have lost loved ones to COVID-19.

“While AI can’t take away that pain of loss, it can certainly make their memories last,” he said.

Prasad did not say when Amazon would introduce Alexa’s voice mimicking capability to the public. An Amazon spokesperson declined Insider’s request for comment.

Alexa’s ability to mimic voices is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that Prasad called “generalizable intelligence.” This ability helps Alexa adapt to different situations and learn new insights from experiences with little supervision, he said.

It’s different from “omniscient and capable” artificial general intelligence, or AGI, which aims to understand human tasks and intellect to solve problems, Prasad said. Organizations including Google DeepMind and that of Elon Musk Open AI both focus on improving AGI.

Amazon isn’t the only company developing technology that can imitate the human voice. Last month, Japanese toymaker Takara Tomy released an egg-shaped voice-changing device called Coemo which copies adult voices and uses them to read stories to children.

Many are spooked by AI’s ability to mimic human functions

On Twitter, people were split over Amazon’s plans to teach Alexa to imitate human voices.

One person, who uses the “Maltese Mama” Twitter account, said Alexa could keep their parents, who have dementia and live far away, mentally active. “We have caregivers going there every day, but being able to peak (sic) or even better go through with a video call is amazing,” they said. tweeted in response to Prasad’s presentation.

But many others have expressed concerns about the technology.

“Umm, so how long will criminals be able to use this to call your family members asking for Venmo money? Or asking for social security numbers? Or banking information?” tweeted a user with the handle bitty_in_pink.

Others, including a Twitter user who goes by the name “Luke”, said they were freaked out by the idea.

“It’s cute but at the same time incredibly scary…I lost my mother last year in August and I’ve been dying to have one last chat with her, but I wouldn’t for a fuckin’ time. circular device,” he wrote.

Experts have long worried about AI’s ability to mimic human functions. In 2015, Musk funded several AI projects, including OpenAI, to ensure researchers only used the technology for beneficial purposes. Earlier this month, an engineer claimed that a Google chatbot had become responsivebut the AI ​​experts said it was far from self-aware.

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