Holocaust activist Marina Smith appeared to be able to answer questions during a funeral celebration of her life, using new technology – her son said.
Mrs.Smith died in June at the age of 87, but video technology, built by her son’s company, made it possible for those attending her funeral to see her answer questions about her life.
Stephen Smith said that it allowed his mother to be “present, in some sense”.
His society foresees numerous uses for its “conversational video technology”.
The use of technology in Smith’s funeral was first unveiled by the Telegraph.
Mr. Smith, the chief executive and co-founder of StoryFile, told the BBC that technology means, once someone has died, It was possible to have a conversation with them “as if they are here, and they will respond to you”.
He stated that this meant that his mother had brought “the aspects of her life that were most important to her to those who loved her the most. And it was very significant to them”.
His mom’s words were hers, not the creation of artificial intelligence (AI), Smith said.
So how is it working?
To make a conversational video, a person needs to make a recording during his or her lifetime, answering many questions about his or her life.
Later, after that person’s death, an AI system selects appropriate clips to play in response to questions from people who watch a commemorative video; the person in the video seems to hear and respond.
Rollo Carpenter, who created the CleverBot chatbot – and is not related to Mr. Smith StoryFile’s company – stated that the system was not trying to construct its own answers or using artificial intelligence to invent answers.
“It’s just a matter of choosing from a bunch of pre-recorded sequences and allowing people to play them,” he said.
Smith was a co-founder of the National Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire, where she led a Holocaust education program. She received an MBE in 2005 in recognition of her work.
The founders of StoryFile came up with the idea for society as well as working on the creation of interactive holograms of Holocaust survivors for the USC Shoah Foundation.
The company sees a wide variety of potential business applications for the technology, from customer service to sales.
He also encouraged famous contemporary celebrities to document their careers with the help of technology, including Star Trek actor William Shatner, whose video can be viewed on their website.
Looking forward, Smith envisions a world in which people document their lives on an ongoing basis, suggesting that users might “talk at the age of 18 when you are 50 or introduce your children to your child of 16”.
Previously, it was suggested that AI could be used to create fully synthesized versions of deceased individuals.
But Smith rejects the notion that today’s technology is capable of this: “Everything in us is absolutely unique,” he said. “It is impossible to create a synthetic version of myself, though it may look like me.”
Mr. Carpenter agreed, stating that using current AI technology to create a ‘computer-generated’ person could ‘put words in the dead person’s mouth – and it could be worse than that, these words could be trusted by the audience”.
Limitations of AI conversationalists have been demonstrated by BlenderBot 3 from Meta, which was criticized for offensive comments and said unflattering things about the co-founder of Mark Zuckerberg.