Sekou Wu was visiting a child’s grave in a quiet cemetery in eastern China. He was seen watching the recorded video of the child by leaving the phone on the grave. In this video, his dead child was saying things he had never said before. And these words are created with artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
In that video, the deceased Juanmo tells his father in a slightly robotic voice, ‘I know you are suffering a lot. I can never be by your side, yet my soul is still here on earth, with you forever.’
Not only Wu but many Chinese like him are now trying to forget their grief by creating avatars of the dead with AI.
Wu wanted to create a virtual but fully realistic replica of his son.
He says, if reality and the metaverse can be combined, I can have my son with me again. I can train him… so that he sees me and understands that I am his father.
Some Chinese companies claim to have created thousands of digital people from 30 seconds of audiovisual material of deceased people. Experts say, through this, people will be able to provide relief to people who are devastated by the loss of their loved ones.
Last year, Wu’s only child, 22-year-old Juanmo, died suddenly of a stroke. From then on, Wu and his wife lived a carefree life.
As the use of AI chatbots like ChatGPT increased in China this year, Wu began researching how to digitally revive her child. In this study, he used pictures, audio and video of his children. Also spend thousands of dollars on AI firms.
The results of the research so far are in the preliminary stage. Furthering the research, Wu also created a team to create a database containing his son’s information.
Wu is trying to create an avatar that matches his son’s way of thinking and speaking, with powerful algorithms.
Recently, some special companies have emerged in the United States that are working on creating avatars of the dead. However, this industry is expanding rapidly in China.
Zhang Xuewei, the founder of Chinese AI firm Super Brain, said that China is at the highest level in the world in AI technology. There are many people in China who have many emotional needs. This is creating our advantage.
Zhang said his company can create a person’s basic avatar in 20 days for $1,400 to $2,800.
Sima Huapeng, founder of China’s Nanjing-based technology company Silicon Intelligence, said technology will bring a new kind of humanism.
Tal Morse, a researcher at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, said more research is needed on whether avatars of the dead can be comforted by AI.