A Swedish funeral agency is searching for people to volunteer to participate in a project that is aiming to allow connection with the dead.
The idea of the project is to provide comfort to those that have lost their loved-ones. You may have heard some rumors that Swedish scientists are working on creating androids and robots of fully conscious versions of dead people, but this is not in any way true.
What you have heard is most likely about Fenix, a Swedish funeral agency that is attempting to create bots, not robots, but a computer program that would be powered by artificial intelligence that would provide the closest thing to communicating with the dead.
The project started out with their chat bot that already existed for the purposes of answering questions about their funeral services. The bot however is not very obviously a computer program and people most often think that they are chatting with a real person.
This gave the funeral home the idea that the exact same technology could be used to comfort those in mourning. It may appear to be unrealistic and sci-fi like, but the technology already exists.
Fenix plans to put information into their computer system about the person who has passed away, and use artificial intelligence to make the bot seem as real as possible. Depending on how much information is available, the bot will be able to discuss a wide variety of topics.
The only issue with the bot is that it cannot learn any new information, and is completely reliant on what was provided by the family. You can’t talk to the bot about something new that was just released. Overall, it’s a new way of storing information and go further than the traditional photograph.
The emotional implications of this are yet to be researched. It’s possible that such an interaction could make it more difficult for mourners to move on, however in other cases it could provide a great deal of comfort.
For now, the chat bot can only offer text conversations, but the Swedish funeral agency is on the search for people to provide speech samples in order to add a voice option too. Maybe a visual element will eventually be added as well.