A grandmother was able to answer questions at her own funeral last month with the help of new Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered “holographic” video technology.
Holocaust educator Marina Smith passed away in June at the age of 87. However, an AI tool called StoryFile, built by her son’s firm, meant those attending her funeral could watch her respond to their questions about her life, reports The Telegraph.
Prior to her death, Smith had previously recorded hours’ worth of details about her life, many of which were unknown to mourners.
By using 20 synchronous cameras to film her answering a series of questions, StoryFile was able to create a digital clone of Smith.
The experts at Los Angeles-based StoryFile processed the footage of Smith, tagged clips, used it to train an AI that can respond to these questions in natural language.
Those who attended Smith’s funeral in Nottingham, UK, were then able to speak with her, as the technology creates the illusion of a real-time conversation.
The finished product was also uploaded to the StoryFile platform so that others could continue to interact with Smith.
Unlike “deep fake” technology which can make a subject say things they did not say in real life, the StoryFile system uses real responses to answer questions. If it does not have an appropriate answer, it encourages audience members to ask another question.
Her son, Dr. Stephen Smith, co-founder and CEO of StoryFile, says that mourners at his mother’s funeral were staggered by the technology.
“Mum answered questions from grieving relatives after they had watched her cremation,” Dr. Smith tells The Telegraph.
“The extraordinary thing was that she answered their questions with new details and honesty,” he says. “People feel emboldened when recording their data. Mourners might get a freer, truer version of their lost loved one.”
Launched in 2017, StoryFile was originally intended to preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors and other historical figures, before it was used at funerals.
The company worked with Star Trek’s William Shatner last year to create a “hologram” of himself that he said will help “preserve his memory and legacy for generations to come.”
An individual who wants to create a StoryFile will first choose topics they think their friends and family will want to ask about, such as relationships or childhood secrets.
They will then answer 75 of a bank of 250,000 potential questions with two-minute video answers that can be transformed into their digital likeness.