In a video that might as well be the opening scene from the latest A24 elevated horror movie, Amazon has revealed that it now has a way for their now omnipresent digital assistant Alexa to imitate the speech patterns of friends and family — including ones who are now deceased — based on its analysis of less than a minute of prerecorded speech.
And while some are no doubt happy that an old answering machine message may let the kids hear great-gran read them fairy tales, others are reacting like Scary Stories to Read in the Dark just got re-booted with voice control. Amazon debuted the vid at its re: MARS conference, a global event showcasing robotics, space travel, and, obviously, AI. The spot shows a boy asking, “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading me ‘The Wizard of Oz’?” whereupon said grandparent, or rather, the AI synthesized version of her voice, began reading along with the text.
As reported by Variety, conference presenter Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and head scientist of Amazon’s Alexa AI, told those in attendance, “As you saw in this experience, instead of Alexa’s voice reading the book, it’s the kid’s grandma’s voice,” Prosad went on to say, “We are unquestionably living in the golden era of AI, where our dreams and science fiction are becoming a reality.”
While the technology is undoubtedly impressive, many people are questioning whether or not the function necessarily heralds a new Golden age. In fact, many people posting online seem to be talking about a new episode of the horror anthology Black Mirror than the latest advance in babysitting.
Another poster questioned whether this is the voice they’re looking for.
You can watch the entire keynote, including the Alexa presentation, in the video below.