Amazon has a plan to get Alexa to emulate someone’s voice

Amazon’s DOT Alexa device is shown inside a house in this photo illustration taken October 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 just like their grandmother – or anyone else.

The online store is developing a system to let Alexa mimic any voice after hearing less than a minute of sound, said Rohit Prasad, senior vice president at Amazon, at a conference the company held in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The goal is to “make the memories last” after “so many of us have lost someone we love” during the pandemic, Prasad said.

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

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The work goes into a technology area that has been carefully scrutinized for potential benefits and abuses. For example, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) has recently restricted which companies can use the software to parrot voices. The goal is to help people with speech problems or other problems, but some are concerned that it could also be used to spread political deep falsifications. read more

Amazon hopes the project will help Alexa become ubiquitous in customers’ lives. But public attention has already shifted elsewhere. At Alphabet Incs (GOOGL.O) Google, an engineer came up with the very controversial claim that a chat bot for the company had advanced to the senses. Another Amazon leader said on Tuesday that Alexa had 100 million customers globally, in line with figures the company has provided for unit sales since January 2019.

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

Amazon shared its vision for friendship with Alexa at the conference. In a video segment, it portrayed a child who asked, “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading me with the Wizard of Oz?”

A moment later, Alexa confirmed the command and changed the voice. She spoke soothingly, less roboticly, and apparently sounded like the individual’s grandmother in real life.

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

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