Funeral Companies In China Use AI For Family To Communicate With Their Deceased Loved Ones

In one instance, artificial intelligence (AI) naturally mimicked a late grandmother's laughter as you would expect in a day-to-day conversation.

Cover image via Bilibili via ifeng & Guangzhou Daily via Sing Tao

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Funeral companies in China are using artificial intelligence (AI) to allow family members to communicate with their deceased loved ones by just processing some audio and visual files

According to The Straits Times, undertakers in the country use machine learning, along with the deceased's photos and voice recordings, to generate life-like avatars of people who have died.

Funeral companies provide such services so that their loved ones can "communicate" with them.

The topic takes the limelight in April in conjunction with the Qing Ming Festival this year. Also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, the festival is when the Chinese visit the burial ground or columbaria of their late loved ones to offer their prayers.

During this festival, some funeral companies have started using ChatGPT and AI programme Midjourney to create a virtual entity that mimics the deceased's personality, appearance, voice, and even memories to allow their loved ones to relive some moments with them.

Shanghai Fushouyun, a company that offers such a service, reportedly conducted its first virtual funeral using AI in January

The deceased was a Chinese surgeon whose colleagues and students had regretted not having the chance to bid him farewell for the last time.

Dazhong Daily reported that the funeral of revered surgeon Dr Wu Mengchao, who was known as the father of Chinese hepatobiliary surgery, featured the doctor 'coming to life' behind a screen, smiling.

"Are there a lot of patients in the hospital now? Has the treatment of nurses been improved? How are you all?" the AI figure said to a room full of people.

After hearing Wu's voice, many people at the scene started crying. 

Meanwhile, a blogger, who goes by the name Wu Wuliu, also shared his experience of 'resurrecting' his grandmother

Journaling the experience in a video, titled 'Generating my grandma's virtual avatar using AI tools', published on video-sharing platform Bilibili in March, he said he produced his virtual late grandmother by using AI painting, ChatGPT, and speech synthesis, the latter of which is responsible for generating artificial human speech.

In the video SAYS sighted, he can be seen engaged in mundane conversation with his grandmother about the house, his father, and even asked if she has bought Chinese New Year goods.

Separately, a blogger talked to ChatGPT and requested it to be his mother who died when he was seven.

After he confided to the AI chatbot about how he missed his mother, it replied: "I am who I was when you were seven, your mother who is forever young and who will forever love you."

Some funeral companies that used AI to connect their customers to their late loved ones received positive feedback for their services

They are now looking to use the technology to help people bid farewell to their late pets.

Fushouyun chief executive Yu Hao told Guangzhou Daily, "We hope to let the living understand that death is not the end of life. People want to use AI to recover the deceased because they need to release their emotions."

"But this will be a problem if the act of ‘reviving a loved one’ makes people drown in their emotions instead."

In February 2020, a South Korean documentary featuring a mother meeting her deceased daughter in virtual reality (VR) drove many netizens to tears:

Meanwhile, here are some bizarre items people have burned for their ancestors during Qing Ming Festival:

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