AI hopes to connect the living with the deceased
The Future. Scientists, psychologists, and researchers are using AI to connect people with their loved ones who have passed on. That artificial connection has taken the form of lifelike avatars, voice-accurate chatbots, and recreations in virtual reality. The tech may help ease feelings of loss — or simply make grieving a more drawn-out experience.
In the cloud
According to WaPo, researchers are trying to use AI to ease the grieving process.
- Augmented Eternity, being built by Toronto Metropolitan University professor Hossein Rahnama, will be able to create a “digital persona” of a dead person that loved ones can communicate with by analyzing things like photos, texts, emails, and social media posts.
- Amazon Alexa introduced a new feature that allows stories to be read from a deceased person’s voice. The AI only needs to listen to a minute of a person’s voice in order to extrapolate the chatbot.
- HereAfter AI, originally created by James Vlahos so he could speak with his dad, interviews people before they pass and then creates a voice-accurate chatbot from their responses that family and friends can talk to.
- Luka, built by Eugenia Kuyda after tragically losing her friend in a hit-and-run, is also a chatbot for the deceased. The company also launched a system called “Replika” so anyone could build a digital version of themselves.
- Somnium Space, the VR metaverse world, is launching a feature called “Live Forever,” which allows users to create AI duplicates of themselves so loved ones can visit their eternal digital avatars and touch them via haptic suits.
And in 2020, a Korean documentary team created a VR version of a 7-year-old girl named Na-yeon — she passed a week after being diagnosed with a rare disease. Her mother, Jang Ji-Sun, was able to say goodbye (something she never did in real life) using the technology.
Just one more conversation
Throughout all of time, people have tried to listen to, re-engage, or communicate with the dead, especially loved ones. What AI, chatbots, and VR do is make the experience immersive and interactive in a way that has never been possible before.
Whether or not this kind of communication is beneficial to the grieving process is another thing entirely. Clinical psychologist Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a research professor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences asks, “By giving somebody the ability to see their loved one again, is that going to give them some solace, or is it going to become like an addiction?”
For many of us, we’ll one day find out.