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Grieving relatives use AI to connect with deceased loved ones

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In 2020, a Korean documentary movie crew invited a mom who had misplaced her 7-year-old daughter to a terminal sickness to their present. The lady’s dying got here so abruptly – she died every week after being recognized in 2016 – the mom, Jang Ji-Sun, didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye. For three years she was obsessed with the lack of her daughter.

The producers of the documentary “Meeting You” created a digitized reproduction of the kid for the mom to see by means of a digital actuality headset (TV audiences may additionally see the daughter’s picture).

In the present, digital lady Na-yeon appeared from behind a pile of wooden and ran in direction of her mom, shouting “Mama”. The mom broke down in tears and stated, “Mom missed you so much, na-yeon.” A video of the present reportedly acquired 19 million views. Although the expertise was painful, the mom instructed the Korean Times that she would do it once more if she may; Finally she may say goodbye.

In “Meeting You,” a Korean tv documentary, Jang Ji-Sun just about hugs a digitized reproduction of her 7-year-old daughter, who died in 2016. (Video: MBC)

“I was worried about how the mother would react to the digitized daughter,” the documentary’s producer Kim Jong-woo instructed the newspaper. “No matter how hard we tried to make the character similar, she can still tell the difference. But she said she was glad to see even the slightest reflection of Na-yeon.”

People have all the time longed for contact with their loved ones after dying. Efforts to be in contact with the useless have been round for eons, reminiscent of photographing deceased kids, holding seances, and even conserving a corpse indoors for posterity. But synthetic intelligence and digital actuality, alongside with different technological advances, have introduced us a giant step nearer to bringing the useless again to life.

“It’s something that’s very fundamental for people to maintain a connection to something they love,” stated Sherman Lee, affiliate professor of psychology at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia, and director of the Pandemic Grief Project.

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Maintaining a bond with a loved one—like checking previous voicemails, watching previous movies, and interacting with chatbots that may communicate with a loved one’s voice—can convey consolation. But it could actually additionally exacerbate grief, particularly for these whose loved ones have died by suicide, when individuals relive the loss, analysis exhibits.

“If you ask me, is it helpful to watch videos of your late spouse every night instead of reconnecting with the world and spending that time with friends and family? No, I don’t think it’s helpful,” Lee stated. “But would it help to smash up all the videos and lock them in one room? This will exacerbate the grieving process.”

Science has definitely taken an interest in connecting the bereaved to their loved ones.

For example, Hossein Rahnama, a Toronto Metropolitan University professor and MIT Media Lab research partner, has built a platform called Augmented Eternity that allows someone to turn a dead person’s photos, text, emails, and social media into a digital person create posts, public statements and blog entries that will be able to interact with relatives and others.

In order to make reliable predictions about what the deceased might have said, the models require huge amounts of data. Rahnama said this will work well for millennials, who post everything they do online, but less well for older people who aren’t as online focused or savvy. Rahnama receives emails almost weekly from people who are terminally ill asking if there is a way to preserve her legacy for loved ones. He said he now has a beta group of 25 people testing his product. His goal is that one day consumers will be able to create their own eternal digital entities.

In June, Amazon unveiled a new feature it is developing for Alexa, where the virtual assistant can read stories aloud in the voice of a deceased loved one after hearing just a minute of that person’s speech. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) “While AI cannot erase that ache of loss, it could actually positively make their reminiscences lasting,” said Rohit Prasad, senior vice president and chief scientist at Amazon Alexa.

And several entrepreneurs in the AI ​​space, including HereAfter AI’s James Vlahos and Eugenia Kuyda, co-founder of AI startups Luka and Replica, have focused their efforts on virtual representations of people, using data from their digital footprints to create an avatar create or chatbot that can interact with family members after they die.

HereAfter’s app guides users through a pre-dying interview process and prompts them to recall stories and memories, which are then recorded. After they pass away, family members can ask questions and the app will respond in the voice of the deceased using the interview information collected, almost as if it were engaging in a conversation.

Vlahos, CEO of HereAfter, said he was motivated to start the company after creating a chatbot — or dadbot, as he calls it — from about a dozen hour-long recordings he made of his father after at his father was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 2016.

Vlahos transcribed these conversations and collected his own memories of his father. He then used a software platform called PullString to program the Dadbot. Vlahos spent a year typing in conversation threads and teaching the bot to interpret what people were saying to it. When a message was sent or a question asked, the Dadbot responded much like his father did, either with a text message, an audio file of a story or song, or even a photo.

He chats with the Dadbot about every month whenever he wants to hear his voice. He once went to a spot where his father’s ashes were scattered, overlooking Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, where his father rarely missed a football game, and asked the Dadbot to give him a Cal Spirit -Singing a song, which then did did.

Vlahos stated the dadbot would not miss his father any much less. “But I like that he can really feel extra current with me, with the elements of his character that I like a lot much less tarnished over time,” he stated.

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Kuyda created a chatbot of a dear friend and roommate, Roman Mazurenko, for a similar reason. She and Mazurenko had moved to the United States from Moscow in 2015 and were living together in San Francisco when Mazurenko was killed by a hit-and-run driver on a short trip home. At the time, her company Luka was building chatbot-based virtual assistants. After Mazurenko’s death, Kuyda decided to use the 10,000 text messages she and Mazurenko had exchanged — as well as texts Mazurenko had sent to others — to create a digital version of him.

Their communication consisted only of text messages on a messenger app, but for those who knew Mazurenko, his on-app responses were spot on. They sounded just like him because they were mostly his answers but made at a different time in a different context.

“It was simply good to bear in mind him in a particular manner and to have the opportunity to discuss to him like we used to,” she stated.

The company made the app called Roman Mazurenko publicly available, and people who didn’t even know him started downloading it and texting him. Some approached the company and asked to make bots out of their own loved ones.

She was 30 at the time, and he was the first important person in her life to die. She struggled with the fact that someone so ubiquitous was no longer there. It was as if he had never existed, she said. “It was sort of remedy for me to have the opportunity to return to him and proceed to have the communication that we had earlier than,” she said. Five years later, she’s still texting his chatbot every week or two.

Psychologists say that creating a virtual copy of a lost loved one can be therapeutic, especially in cases with unresolved issues, but could it make someone want to stay in that virtual world of their loved one?

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“By giving somebody the chance to see their loved one once more, will that convey them any consolation or will it turn out to be like an dependancy?” says clinical psychologist Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director of medical virtual reality at the Institute for Creative Technologies and research professor at the Keck School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California.

Grief therapists sometimes invite people to have an imaginary conversation with the deceased, or to write a letter or role-play with the therapists. With digital recreations of the dead, especially in virtual reality, the experience would be more immersive.

It’s comprehensible why individuals need to maintain their loved ones.

One of our fundamental drives is to attach ourselves to others, especially those who provide a secure base, like a parent to a child, said Robert Neimeyer, director of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition. “These are amongst our strongest evolutionary imperatives as beings, and our applied sciences are recruited to assist that objective,” he stated.

After the phone was invented, he stated, Thomas Edison was inquisitive about creating a “ghost telephone” to somehow communicate with the dead. And seeing a photo of a deceased son dying at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War was just as eerie an experience for a parent at the time as seeing her dead daughter in virtual reality for this mother in the video, Neimeyer said.

“What’s surreal in a single period shortly turns into standard within the subsequent,” he said. “Generally in life, we don’t grow as people by eliminating who we’ve loved, how we’ve loved, what we’ve loved. It’s about holding onto something different. How can we use this relationship as a resource? I think technology can help with that.”

The logistics of death can be overwhelming. New apps can help.

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