Amazon teases a new voice assistant

Amazon teases a new voice assistant

After listening to an audio recording, Alexa will be able to imitate people, the company claims.

After listening to a brief audio recording, Amazon has revealed plans to create a system that would enable its Alexa voice assistant to mimic people’s voices. The new function was disclosed on Wednesday in Las Vegas at the companies re: MARS conference.

Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist of Alexa at Amazon, demonstrated the new function for conference attendees and stated that the system’s goal is to “make the memories last.”

A young child questioned the voice assistant during the feature’s demonstration, “Can Grandma finish reading me the Wizard of Oz?” After a brief pause, Alexa confirmed the request and reportedly started speaking in the grandmother’s voice.

To produce a high-quality voice in less than a minute, as opposed to hours of studio recording, Prasad claimed that this new feature, which is still under development and has no set release date, required inventions.

He noted that “we are unquestionably living in the golden era of artificial intelligence, where our dreams and science fictions are becoming a reality,” and went on to explain that they were able to accomplish this by framing the problem as “a voice conversion task” rather than a “speech generation path.”

While the feature could ostensibly be used to replicate any voice, the Amazon VP suggested that it could also be used to help honor a deceased family member. During the Covid-19 pandemic, “so many of us have lost someone we love,” said Prasad, noting that the team’s main goal is to make artificial intelligence conversational and companion-like.

While AI can’t take away the pain of loss, it can make memories last, he continued.

Amazon has stated that it wants to make Alexa feel more natural overall and has been steadily enhancing the program’s functionality. The dominant e-commerce company has been introducing features that allow for more conversational interactions with customers, even to the point of asking questions.

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