Alexa could soon speak with the voice of the dead

How do you react when Alexa speaks to you in the voice of someone you love who has died? That could soon become a reality.

Amazon is currently developing a solution for Alexa that sounds scary: Alexa could soon be able to use the

speaking voice of deceased persons


At the re:Mars conference in Las Vegas, Amazon shows an example of Alexa speaking in the voice of a deceased elderly lady. In the scenario, a boy asks the voice assistant Alexa if his grandmother can finish reading the Wizard of Oz to him. Alexa confirms this in her usual voice – and then changes her voice. She now reads from The Wizard of Oz, using the voice of the boy’s late grandmother.

At least that’s what Amazon or Alexa research boss Rohit Prasad (SVP and Head Scientist Alexa AI) claims. This video shows the said sequence.

The bottom line: Amazon allegedly only needs a short excerpt with the original voice (Amazon says it takes a minute) to enable Alexa to recite any text with the synthesized voice of the grandmother. Amazon has achieved this because it uses a different technique than previously used for speech synthesis. Details on Amazon’s technical approach can be found in this Amazon document.

But why should Alexa speak with the voice of the deceased at all? Prasad thinks that by doing this, the memory of the deceased could be preserved.

However, Prasad did not say when this new speech technology would be available to all users. Amazon is currently still working on the new technology. Amazon doesn’t seem to be close to completion yet, so it should take a while.

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