April 11, 2023
BEIJING – A Shanghai man recently uploaded a video in which he used artificial intelligence to create a digital version of his late grandmother, yangtse.com reported on Monday.
The man, 24, goes by the name Wu Wuliu on Bilibili, one of the country’s most popular video-sharing platforms. He posted the video to honor his grandmother, who died in January. Wu said his grandmother brought him up as a child and they had a close relationship, adding he was only able to exchange a few simple words with her during her last days and can’t cope with the loss.
As a visual designer, Wu came up with the idea to “bring her back” by mimicking her appearance, voice, personality and memories through AI applications. He imported several photos of his grandmother into the programs to create a lifelike avatar, then uploaded her verbal messages to simulate her voice and accent. Finally, he turned the AI language into conversations that might happen between him and his grandmother.
The “grandmother” can blink, nod and even heartily laugh. When Wu asked her if she had prepared holiday goods for the Spring Festival, she said in dialect: “I bought two bottles of cooking oil and they smell good.” When Wu asked what she said to his father when she was alive, she said: “I told him not to drink too much, save money and stop gambling.”
By “talking” with her, Wu said he could ease the pain of his loss, adding he knew it was a comfortable illusion.
Netizens’ reactions were mixed. Some supported Wu, as people “reconnecting” with deceased loved ones through the help of AI can bring them comfort. Others thought such a replica is meaningless and could keep people stuck in their memories.
“From a psychological perspective, compared to traditional items such as posthumous photographs and personal belongings, AI technology can better preserve the image and personality of deceased loved ones, providing comfort to those who are grieving,” said Chen Zhilin, a national-level psychological counselor.
“However, over-reliance on it should be avoided. More importantly, we must learn to cherish the present.”