Amazon is working on giving Alexa the ability to mimic anyone's voice, dead or alive

Jul 16, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership

Amazon is teaching Alexa to mimic anyone's voice, dead or alive, from just a one-minute recording of that voice.

Rohit Prasad, Amazon's head scientist for Alexa, said at a live event on Wednesday that his team has been instructing Alexa to pick up a voice from a short audio clip and convert it into longer audio output. Prasad was presenting at Amazon's re:Mars conference in Las Vegas.

He showed a short video of how people could use Alexa's voice-changing capability in real life. In the clip, a boy asks: "Alexa, can grandma finish reading me the Wizard of Oz?"

The smart speaker confirmed the request in its default chirpy voice, then transitioned to a less robotic voice that narrated an excerpt from the children's novel.

"This required inventions where we had to learn to produce a high-quality voice with less than a minute of recording versus hours of recording in the studio. The way we made it happen is by framing the problem as a voice-conversion task and not a speech generation path," Prasad said.

Prasad said Alexa's ability to impersonate familiar voices is particularly crucial now, as many people lost loved ones to COVID-19.

"While AI can't eliminate that pain of loss it can definitely make their memories last," he said.

Prasad did not say when Amazon would introduce Alexa's voice-imitation capability to the public. An Amazon spokesperson declined Insider's request for comment.

Alexa's ability to mimic voices is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that Prasad called "generalizable intelligence." The ability helps Alexa adapt to different situations and acquire new knowledge from the experiences with little supervision, he said.

It's different from the "all-knowing, all-capable" artificial general intelligence, or AGI, that aims to understand human tasks and intellect to solve problems, said Prasad. Organizations including Google's DeepMind and Elon Musk's OpenAI are both focused on perfecting AGI.

Amazon is not the only company working on developing tech that can imitate human voices. Last month, Japanese toy maker Takara Tomy debuted a voice-shifting, egg-shaped device called Coemo that copies adults' voices and uses them to read stories to children.

Many are spooked by AI's ability to imitate human functions

On Twitter, people were divided over Amazon's plans to teach Alexa to mimic human voices.

One person, who uses the Twitter handle "Maltese Mama," said Alexa could keep their parents, who have dementia and live far away, mentally active. "We have caregivers going daily but being able to peak (sic) in or even better drop in with a video call is amazing," they tweeted in response to Prasad's presentation.

But many others voiced concerns about the technology.

"Umm, so how soon will criminals be able to use it to call your family members begging them to Venmo cash? Or ask them for social security numbers? Or bank information?" tweeted a user with the handle bittyinpink.

Others, including a Twitter user who goes by "Luke," said they were creeped out by the thought of it.

"It's sweet but at the same time incredibly creepy… I lost my mum last year in August and would die to have one last proper conversation with her but I wouldn't do it for a goddamn circular device," he wrote.

Experts have long been concerned about AI's ability to imitate human functions. In 2015, Musk funded several AI projects, including OpenAI, to ensure that researchers were using the technology only for beneficial purposes. Earlier this month, an engineer claimed that a Google chatbot had become sentient, but AI experts said it was far from being self-aware.


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Intel: S'pore Honda Civic stolen from Genting Highlands enroute into Indochina

Jul 19, 2022 | 🚀 Fathership

The Honda Civic Type R stolen from a mall carpark in Malaysia's Resorts World Genting is likely enroute into Indochina by way of Thailand through a container ship, a Fathership source said.

Indochina is referred to the countries bordering Thailand, which includes Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

How it works

The Honda Civic would be especially difficult to recover, said a source who brought forward the syndicates’ way of operating. “It is believed that the cars stolen in Malaysia will be transported via the sea by container ship from Singapore. Then, it will stop at its first destination, Thailand. It is also believed that Laem Chabang Port, in Thailand is their main destination [to unload the stolen vehicles],” he continued.

The source adds that depending on the situation, parts of the stolen vehicle would be dropped off in Thailand, while the rest would continue on its way to the other countries.

CCTV captures footage of stolen Honda Civic

According to CCTV footage, the Singapore-plate car owned by a man named Damien, was stolen in the early morning of July 16 at around 2.43am.

Another CCTV screenshot showed the thief driving Damien's car out of the car park by tailgating another vehicle through the exit.

Bye bye Honda

The source said, "Thailand had been ramping up it's intelligence network and syndicates are finding it harder to keep the car in Thailand for a long time. To avoid detection, the car will continue it's journey into one of the countries in Indochina, likely Laos as Cambodia and Myanmar's black market prefers 4-wheel drives and bigger vehicles like the Toyota Hilux."

Coincidentally, a Malaysian-registered Toyota Hilux was also stolen from the same carpark as the Honda Civic a day before.