Last week, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Seoul-based DeepBrain AI showcased re;memory, a software that can use machine learning to process images, audio recordings and video footage of recently deceased people to create a virtual version that can interact with the living, as if on a video call. It can even answer questions from the grieving, and share memories from the past. It is expected to cost between £10,000 and £20,000 to create a virtual person, then £1,000 each time a loved one wants a conversation with it.
There has been much discussion and controversy around the launch, and rise, of so-called ‘grief-tech’. Here, our Director of Clinical Services, Suzy Turner Jones, gives her opinion on the launch.
“The rise, and of course, advance, of all technology is extremely interesting, but for those who experience bereavement, especially in childhood, there are a number of ethical issues that we would want to explore through evidence-based research in order to be able to comment productively. However, even research in this area may throw up ethical questions, especially for bereaved children and young adults where we would be cautious of anything that may be unhelpful or confusing. It’s important with the use of new technologies that we record and research the way these effect the grieving process of children and young people.
At Grief Encounter, we ensure that after the death of someone close, language, for example, is clear and concise that the person is no longer alive and not coming back. AI presents a new set of challenges that could affect this. Memories are something to be treasured, and perhaps not to be re-invented in such a visceral way. It is, for example, much more common now for relatives to keep open a Facebook page of their deceased so that they can keep visiting it, which has shown no evidence it is harmful for adults; however there is no research about the effects on children and young people. What we do know is that we all experience the impact of bereavement in different ways and we must ensure that correct and unique support is in place for every person.”