Amazon has a plan to make Alexa mimic everyone’s voice

Amazon’s DOT Alexa device is shown inside a house in this image, taken Oct. 1, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake/Illustration

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LAS VEGAS, June 22 (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) wants to give customers the chance to make Alexa, the company’s voice assistant, sound like their grandmother — or whoever.

The online retailer is developing a system that will allow Alexa to mimic any voice after hearing less than a minute of audio, said Rohit Prasad, a senior vice president of Amazon, at a conference the company held Wednesday in Las Vegas. The goal is to “keep the memories alive” after “so many of us have lost someone we love” during the pandemic, Prasad said.

Amazon declined to share when it would roll out such a feature.

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The work wades into an area of ​​technology that has been closely scrutinized for potential benefits and abuses. For example, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) recently restricted which companies could use their software to mimic voices. Its purpose is to help people with speech impairments or other problems, but some fear it could also be used to spread political deepfakes. read more

Amazon hopes the project will help Alexa become ubiquitous in shoppers’ lives. But public attention has already shifted elsewhere. At Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google, an engineer, made the highly controversial claim that a company chatbot had reached consciousness. Another Amazon executive said on Tuesday that Alexa had 100 million customers worldwide, in line with figures the company has provided for device sales since January 2019.

Prasad said Amazon’s goal for Alexa is “generalizable intelligence,” or the ability to adapt to user environments and learn new concepts with little outside input. He said that goal is “not to be confused with the omniscient, omnipotent, uber artificial general intelligence,” or AGI, which Alphabet’s DeepMind unit and OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk are seeking.

Amazon shared its vision of companionship with Alexa at the conference. In a video clip, it depicted a child asking, “Alexa, can Grandma read me the Wizard of Oz?”

Moments later, Alexa confirmed the order and her voice changed. She spoke soothingly, less robotic, seemingly sounding like the person’s grandmother in real life.

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Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in Las Vegas; Additional reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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