Microsoft receive digital afterlife AI patent

Microsoft receive digital afterlife AI patent

A recent patent has been granted to computer giant Microsoft for a product that replicates people who have passed away.

According to the patent, which Microsoft initially filed in 2017, the company is working on chat bots for those who are grieving so that they may ‘communicate’ with the person. The patent document has Dustin Abramson and Joseph Johnson, Jr. listed as  inventors.

According to the patent, “The specific person [who the chat bot represents] may correspond to a past or present entity (or a version thereof), such as a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, a random entity etc. The specific person may also correspond to oneself (e.g., the user creating/training the chat bot).”

It appears Microsoft want to accompany the chatbot with a 2D or 3D model of the late person for the user to communicate with.

While the patent has been granted, the technology in question may never be released as a commercial product. Microsoft’s general manager of AI programs has poured cold water on the news, writing on Twitter that there are no plans for the technology at present.

The patent being granted, however, is the latest event in an emerging field of AI programs designed to allow people to have conversations that reflect those who have passed away.

Featured in such fiction as the Netflix series Black Mirror, digital afterlife technology is very much still in its infancy.

As Insights previously explored, these include a basic chatbot in Russia that replicates the programmers’ late friend (who expressed interest in such a venture before his untimely death) and a program currently underway to record enough data to replicate someone’s thought patterns.

While the digital replicating of deceased people may help people grieve, there has been some debate about whether or not this process is ethical. Similar discussion regarding the use of deceased actors has previously revolved around Star Wars films’ use of the late actors Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher.


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