It's fair to say that AI technology crossed the creepy line a while back, with examples including this AI art-generated woman and these terrifying horror posters. But clearly, we're just getting started... because the latest AI trend is taking things to a whole new level of ghoulishness.
South Korean company DeepBrain AI is offering a service called Re;memory (opens in new tab), showcased last week at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Vegas, that claims to help people cope with losing a loved one. It takes images, audio and video of the person, and after their death resurrects them virtually as a 'digital twin': one that you can chat to as if they were a real person.
Crucially, Re;memory creates the AI human in phases while the client is alive. First off, scriptwriters conduct pre-interviews collecting various episodes and life stories from the client. They then film an interview in a specialised studio, to prepare the necessary video and voice data. Finally, a deep learning process creates an AI human that resembles the client in appearance, facial expression, voice, intonation, and mannerisms.
Once the client has passed, loved ones can experience 30-minute-long conversations with the late client in a special showroom with an HD sound system and 400 inch-screen, on four themes: 'reunion', 'memories', 'joy', and 'parting'. Using STT (Speech to Text) and chatbot technology, their questions can be answered by the deepfake in what's claimed to be a convincing and meaningful way. The company has released a video showing the tech in action:
It's become a cliche to say that new tech is "like something out of Black Mirror", but in this case, it couldn't be more apt. The episode Be Right Back, first shown in 2013, tells the story of a young woman (Hayley Atwell), whose boyfriend (Domhnall Gleeson) is killed in a car accident. As she mourns him, she discovers that technology now allows her to communicate with an artificial intelligence imitating him, and reluctantly decides to try it. It's not a spoiler to say that, as with most Black Mirror episodes, things don't end well...
While the Charlie Brooker show – still one of the best shows on Netflix – set out to be a warning to society, it doesn't look like society is taking the warnings particularly seriously. The Re;memory service is merely the latest mass-market expansion of tech that's already been used by the likes of Kanye West, who in 2020 gifted Kim Kardashian a hologram of her late father (opens in new tab), the OJ Simpson lawyer Robert Kardashian (see below).
For my birthday, Kanye got me the most thoughtful gift of a lifetime. A special surprise from heaven. A hologram of my dad. ✨🤍 It is so lifelike! We watched it over and over, filled with emotion. pic.twitter.com/jD6pHo17KCOctober 29, 2020
The creepy, ghost-like encounter, sadly, did not help their troubled marriage, which ended in divorce the following year.
If you want to learn more about how this clever but disturbing tech is developing right now, see our roundup of the 20 best deepfake examples. Or, you could just hide behind the sofa with the rest of us, and hope it all somehow goes away...