The Volokh Conspiracy

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"'Holographic Conversational' AI Lets Dead Speak at Funerals"


From AV Magazine (Darron Kirkby):

[Start-up] StoryFile creates a digital clone of the subject by using 20 synchronised cameras to record them answering a series of questions. The footage is then processed, with clips tagged and used to train an artificial intelligence (AI) that can provide responses to questions in natural language.

One of the first users of the technology was Marina Smith MBE—the mother of StoryFile's chief executive Dr Stephen Smith—who died in June at the age of 87. In January, Smith, the co-founder of the UK's National Holocaust Centre and Museum, chose topics she thought her friends and family would want to ask about at her funeral. She then spent several hours over a two-day period recording two-minute video answers to 75 from a database of 250,000 potential questions, using a webcam and her computer.

At her funeral, Smith addressed her friends and family through a pre-recorded video about her life and spirituality. She was also able to answer questions from her loved ones during the memorial service, with the hologram creating the illusion of a real-time conversation.

Not the sort of thing I'd really want at a loved one's funeral, and the Smiths (both mother and son) may have been unusually interested in the technology. Still, others might disagree; and I can imagine that, once the software gets good enough, people might want to occasionally "talk" to their dead friends or family members—or perhaps have their children get to know their ancestors this way.