When I spoke to my phone, my face appeared on the screen, and I said, ‘Hi, my name is Robert, and I’m looking forward to telling you about my life.’
I was talking to an AI avatar of myself, designed to allow people to ‘live on’ after death so that relatives can talk to them and learn about their lives.
My wife’s reaction to my AI clone was absolute horror, as she simply said, ‘My God, why?’
The clone comes courtesy of a ‘digital afterlife’ service, Hereafter.AI, part of a wave of AI-powered ‘grief tech’ created by programmer James Vlahos after his father died of cancer in 2016.
AI experts speaking to DailyMail.com believe AI bots to ’emulate’ loved ones will grow in sophistication in coming years so that people can ‘live on’ after death – and 3D holograms could even come for Christmas dinner.
Talking to myself has never been more surreal (Image; Rob Waugh)
The service creates a ‘Legacy Avatar’ that can live on after your death (Rob Waugh/Hereafter)
Vlahos programmed a ‘Dadbot’ while his father was still alive, recording his responses to questions – and Hereafter’s service now uses AI to make it easier to interact.
The app now promises ‘Your stories and voice. Forever.’
The personalized Hereafter chatbot has my picture on it: you talk to it by pressing a button on the screen, and the image pulses before responding, like a digital Ouija board.
The first time you hear your own voice coming out of the screen, it’s pretty alarming, and I can imagine it would be even more so if it were a deceased relative.
But the service is pretty impressive: the AI allows you to converse very naturally with the ‘dead’ person and guides you to anecdotes that the person has pre-recorded about their parents, hobbies and so on.
The process starts with the app interviewing you extensively about your life, with automated prompts that slowly ‘fill in’ the details (asking you questions about siblings, for example, and memorable holidays), and then AI does the rest.
It feels quite natural to chat to, and because the subjects the app asks you about tend to be emotional ones, there’s a raw honesty to talking to it that you don’t generally get from talking to real people.
There’s one huge, glaring problem with the service: it’s $3.99 a month to access the basic version and $7.99 for the full one.
So, in other words, your dead relatives can ‘live on’ as long as you keep paying.