Amazon’s Alexa May Soon Be Able to Imitate Any Voice

Posted on June 23, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Amazon with 16 Comments

At its re:MARS conference in Las Vegas this week, Amazon showcased a new Alexa capability that will make the digital assistant capable of imitating any voice (via Reuters). The feature was demoed during a keynote segment about empathy, where the company wanted to emphasize how AI assistants can enable “lasting personal relationships” with loved ones.

Rohit Prasad, SVP and Head Scientist working on Alexa AI introduced the feature in a video showing a kid asking Alexa if his grandmother could finish reading him the Wizard of Oz. The digital assistant complies and starts reading the story in the voice of the kid’s grandmother.

The exec highlighted the “companionship relationship” users have with Alexa, and how human attributes of empathy and affect are “key for building trust.” He also explained that in the context of a worldwide pandemic that claimed the lives of so many loved ones, AI could “definitely make their memories last.”

According to Prasad, Amazon developed the capability to reproduce a human voice with just “less than a minute of recording versus hours of recording in a studio.” Depending on the way you look at it, it can be quite impressive or really concerning, especially if this technology can be used for harmful purposes, including deepfakes.

Amazon didn’t say when this new feature would roll out to Alexa. However, the company may want to think twice before putting this technology in the hands of millions of Alexa users.

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Comments (16)

16 responses to “Amazon’s Alexa May Soon Be Able to Imitate Any Voice”

  1. mikegalos

    It'll be interesting to see how much prosody variation they get from that short sample. Their slide mentions customizing the prosody but the audio sample still used Alexa's good but not perfect prosody.

    • mikegalos

      For those who don't know the term prosody, it's the melody of prose - the tonal inflections of speech. Think of the sounds of the teachers in Peanuts animated shows.

  2. dmclaurin

    I like this! Can't wait to hear Alexa talking like Darth Vader :D

  3. SvenJ

    I'd just like the thing to answer to a name of my choosing.

    • mikegalos

      That's actually a hard problem since you want a wake word that isn't said accidently directly or as part of a combination of other words. Think of the conversation between two killbots in Futurama for an example:


      I don't see how it's her business...

      Did somebody say howitzer?


      Still, it would be nice to have more than the existing few choices.



  4. cliffordsf

    It's the end of the world as we know it...



  5. orbsitron

    "... but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should"

  6. PStansberry78

    And yet, 11 years on I still can’t assign my own custom wake word for it.


    ”Karen: Turn on the lights.”

    ”Cuthulu: What time is it in Hades?”

    ”Santa: What is the temperature at the North Pole.”


    🤣

  7. PStansberry78

    And yet, 11 years on I still can’t assign my own custom wake word for it.


    ”Karen: Turn on the lights.”

    ”Cuthulu: What time is it in Hades?”

    ”Santa: What is the temperature at the North Pole.”


    🤣

  8. adamstaiwan

    So I'm listening to the video above and they said they figured a way to bypass the brain's defensive mechanisms.

    I other words, no one will be able to hide anything from them. Isn't anyone listening?

  9. angusmatheson

    That’s not creepy at all. Yes, Amazon speaking in the voice of your dead relatives sounds like a great idea.

  10. Daekar

    I think I would have to figure out a way to get Dame Maggie Smith's voice in there...

  11. danbear2929

    Am I only one thinking this is creepy?

  12. mitip

    I am so excited to at last be able to hear mimicked voices from Alexa.

    This is the excuse I have been waiting for to go out and buy one for all my friends!

    I am so glad Thurrott used those headmast column inches to report such exciting news.

    Rah

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