Amazon’s Alexa could soon mimic any voice, senior VP confirms

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Amazon wants to give customers the ability to make Alexa, the company’s voice assistant, sound like their grandma — or anyone else.

The online retailer is developing a system that allows Alexa to imitate any voice after hearing less than a minute of audio, Rohit Prasad, senior vice president of Amazon, told a conference the company said. company held in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The aim is to “make the memories last” after “so many of us have lost someone we love” during the pandemic, Prasad said.

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

The work enters an area of ​​technology that has come under scrutiny for benefits and potential abuses. For example, Microsoft recently restricted which companies could use its software to repeat vocals. The aim is to help people with speech impairments or other problems, but some fear it could also be used to spread political deepfakes.

Amazon hopes the project will help Alexa become ubiquitous in shoppers’ lives. But the public’s attention has already shifted elsewhere. At Alphabet’s Google, an engineer made the hotly contested claim that a corporate chat bot had gone sentient. Another Amazon executive said on Tuesday that Alexa has 100 million customers worldwide, in line with figures provided by the company for device sales since January 2019.

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Prasad said 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 that goal is “not to be confused with omniscient, omnipotent artificial general intelligence,” or AGI, which Alphabet’s DeepMind unit and OpenAI, co-founded by Elon Musk, are pursuing.

Amazon shared its vision for the company with Alexa during the conference. In one video segment, he portrayed a child who asked, “Alexa, can Grandma finish reading The Wizard of Oz to me?”

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A moment later, Alexa confirmed the command and changed her voice. She spoke soothingly, less robotically, ostensibly sounding like the individual’s grandmother in real life.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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