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Microsoft plans to reincarnate dead people as chat bots

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Jan 18, 2021 8:02 pm

In a move that is starkly reminiscent of the TV series Black Mirror, Microsoft Corp. is gearing up to launch a chat bot that could be based from a dead person.

Microsoft filed a patent on Dec. 1 last year for “creating a conversational chatbot of a specific person” at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

“The specific person may correspond to a past or present entity, such as a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, a random entity, etc.,” the patent stated.

To develop the program, Microsoft will use “social data” such as “images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages [and] written letters” to build the profile of the person.

The system will train the bot to “converse and interact” according to the person’s “conversational attributes,” such as “style, diction, tone, voice, intent, sentence/dialogue length and complexity, topic and consistency”.

It could even train the bot to sound like the real person. “In some aspects, a voice font of the specific person may be generated using recordings and sound data related to the specific person,” the patent stated.

In addition to that, Microsoft has opened the possibility of creating 2D or 3D models of the bots using “images, depth information, and/or video data associated with the specific person.”

Martha of Black Mirror's "Be Right Back"

Microsoft’s chatbot is a true-to-life version of the Black Mirror character Ash, the digitalized reincarnation of Martha’s deceased boyfriend in the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back.”

And similar to the reanimated Ash, Microsoft is planning to give the bot ability to know that “he/she is, in fact, deceased.”

Synthetic flesh version of fake Ash and Martha

According to Microsoft, even people who are still alive can request their own version of chatbots. “The specific person may also correspond to oneself (e.g., the user creating/training the chatbot).” the patent added.

Microsoft also noted that a person (whether dead or alive) will only be used as a model if the company receives a request from the person or someone else on his/her behalf.