SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — Amazon announced a new feature Wednesday that will allow Alexa to speak in the voices of deceased relatives, friends and other loved ones.

Speaking at the day two keynote during the company’s annual MARS conference in Las Vegas, Alexa head scientist Rohit Prasad showed a video of Alexa, ostensibly sounding like a boy’s deceased grandmother reading him a book.

“Alexa, can grandma finish reading me ‘The Wizard of Oz’?” the child asks before Alexa goes into the book.

Prasad said one thing that surprises him about Alexa is “the companionship relationship we have with it.”

“In this companionship rule, human attributes like empathy and affect are key to building trust,” Prasad said.
“These attributes have become even more important in these times of the ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love. While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make those memories last.”

Prasad said the voice will enable “lasting personal relationships.”

Prasad said his team “had to learn how to produce a high-quality voice with less than a minute of recording versus an hour of recording in the studio.”