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James Vlahos wanted to keep his father’s memory alive. So she started interviewing him about his childhood memories, his favorite songs, his favorite jokes. With the audio tracks of the answers he created the ‘Dadbot’, an interactive avatar of his father; «The Dadbot was a project that meant a lot to me personally,» Vlahos recalls in an interview. «But when other people found out, I got a lot of requests about whether I could do something similar for their relatives.» One such grief tech company, HereAfter.AI, was founded in 2016 by writer James Vlahos.

The difference with the simple audio recordings, photo albums or videos that have been around for years and helping us remember those who left lies in the interactivity of the new technology. «It’s not about preserving memories, it’s about turning them into a conversation,» according to James Vlahos.

At the moment, a bot guided by Artificial Intelligence is usually used that imulates conversations, thanks to the material previously collected from the deceased through an application, but without generating any new content or additional responses. However, other US startups, such as StoryFile, are already working on the next step: ‘generative AI’, which broadens the conversation with new arguments, answers, etc. As if the deceased will continue to think; StoryFile’s AI was originally created to allow Holocaust survivors to pass on their experiences to future generations. For its part, StoryFile also has an archive of prominent personalities who are still alive. For example, ‘Star Trek’ actor William Shatner.

In conclusion:

The ability to see and hear the loved one who has died, ask questions after their death, and hear their answers. This is already possible with artificial intelligence. But what are the risks of this risky technological exercise of immortality? American companies such as StoryFile, HereAfter.AI or You, Only Virtual use artificial intelligence to bring those who have died back to life. It is about creating a ‘digital copy’ of the deceased. These types of tools are part of what is called ‘grief technology’. The goal: to be able to chat, make phone calls or even videoconferences with avatars of great perfection that represent their deceased relatives; from the data of a deceased, these companies use artificial intelligence to create chatbots or virtual avatars with which mourners can then interact. (There is the case of a mother in South Korea who needed to say goodbye to her daughter who died at a very young age. To do this, he had his seven year old girl create an avatar.)

Behind this is a business idea that plays on the human yearning for immortality. The deceased, here, take shape, they seem to speak to us from beyond, but they are only machines… Although the development of Artificial Intelligence makes these machines, perhaps, deeply resemble the human being they imitate.

see so: Writer James Vlahos explains how voice computing will change the way we live – The Verge

From dad to Dadbot: one man’s attempt to capture human essence in AI

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