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Chinese mourners turn to artificial intelligence to remember and 'resurrect' loved ones | Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Chinese mourners turn to artificial intelligence to remember and 'resurrect' loved ones |  Artificial Intelligence (AI)

aMillions of people across China travel to the graves of their ancestors to pay their respects for the annual Tomb Sweeping Festival – a traditional day to honor and preserve the graves of the dead – a new way to remember and commemorate their beloved relatives. is born.

For 20 yuan (£2.20), Chinese internet users can create an animated digital avatar of their loved ones, according to some advertised online services. So this year, to mark the Tomb Sweeping Festival on Thursday, innovative mourners are turning to artificial intelligence to communicate with the deceased.

At the more sophisticated end of the spectrum, Taiwanese singer Bao Xiaobai used artificial intelligence to “revive” his 22-year-old daughter, who died in 2022. Although there is only an audio recording of her speaking three sentences in English, Bao is said to have spent More than a year of experimenting with AI technology before you can innovate Video of his daughter Singing happy birthday to her mother which he posted in January.

“People around me think I have lost my mind,” Bao said in an interview with Chinese media. But he added: “I want to hear her voice again.”

Interest in digital reproductions of the departed comes as China's artificial intelligence industry continues to expand to include human-like avatars. According to one estimate, the market for “digital humans” reached 12 billion yuan in 2022, and is expected to quadruple by 2025. Part of the reason Chinese tech companies are so adept at creating digital humans is because there is a huge army of live streamers in the world. The country. — who generated sales of nearly 5 trillion yuan last year — are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence to create clones of themselves to push products 24/7.

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People scatter petals in a river at a cemetery in Beijing before the Tomb Sweeping Festival this week. Photo: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Last month, SenseTime, one of China's leading AI companies, showed off its skills in this area through a speech at the company's annual general meeting by the company's founder, Tang Xiaoou. “Hello everyone, we meet again,” Tang told the staff. He added: “Last year was difficult for everyone, but I believe that difficult things will pass in the end.”

2023 was a particularly difficult year for Tang, because he died on December 15 at the age of 55. His speech was delivered by a digital transcript, trained by SenseTime engineers using a large language model machine learning program trained on video and audio clips of Tang. .

The Tomb Sweeping Festival provides a special opportunity for this type of technology. One software developer He said on Weibo It has already helped more than 600 families “reunite” with their loved ones this year.

But it's not just the bereaved who are using artificial intelligence to revive their loved ones. Social media users recently used old footage of singer Qiao Renliang, who died in 2016, to create new content starring him. In one video, the AI ​​version Qiao says: “Actually, I never left.” But the parents of Qiao, who committed suicide, are angry. Chinese media quoted his father as saying that the video “revealed scars” and was produced without the family's consent.

Some lawyers in China say such content should be banned if it causes “mental anguish” to relatives of the deceased. But as mourners gather for a tomb-sweeping festival, China's digital natives are likely to experience the digital afterlife faster than living policymakers can regulate it.

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Additional research by Chi Hui Lin