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Source: Marina H. Smith Foundation
In a self-eulogy of sorts, an old English woman, who passed away at 87, was able to address her own funeral.
When someone dies, they leave behind a lifetime of memories for their loved ones to grieve on. Thanks to AI, it doesn’t have to be the same anymore, as it appears that one could still talk to the deceased, and we are not talking about the ouija board here.
Marina Smith MBE, a Holocaust campaigner from Nottingham, England, was born on 16 November 1934, in Kolkata, India. She passed away in June 2022, but appeared as a hologram, seeming to ‘come alive’. The deceased 87-year-old was able to talk to her loved ones at her own funeral with an AI-powered ‘holographic’ video tool. Talk about taking secrets to the grave? Well, Mrs Smith shared her secrets and hardships with her family in her posthumous appearance.
Mrs Smith, who was a co-founder and matriarch of The National Holocaust Centre and Museum, was one of the first to adopt this new technology that enabled her to make an appearance at her own funeral.
The conversational video technology was invented by StoryFile, an AI-powered video platform that is cloud-based and automatic, bringing the power of conversational video into everyone’s hands. Stephen Smith, CEO and co-founder of StoryFile was the brain behind this innovation and made his mother, Marina Smith, adopt this technology.
Heather Malo-Smith, CVO & co-founder, StoryFile, says, “I just wanted to be able to sit across from an individual who might not be with us anymore and feel as though I was having a conversation with them!”
StoryFile’s motto of making AI more human
The Los Angeles-based startup was launched in 2017 and allowed people to create videos that could reply to viewers using artificial intelligence to play relevant video clips as responses to those questions. StoryFile is the inventor of Conversa, an AI-powered storytelling tool used for training and institutional knowledge. It enables organisations to enhance their communications with respect to customer services, sales and recruitment. Conversa is used to provide a video answer whenever a question is asked.
This technology was initially conceived as a way to preserve stories of Holocaust survivors, along with talking to other historical figures. But StoryFile’s videos are now turning up at funerals, and Stephen understands why this has happened.
The company combines the latest studio technology with a bank of 20 synced cameras to capture the subject in Hologram-specific detail. With the help of advanced AI and expert psychological evaluation, it creates a digital clone that lets people ‘talk to the dead’.
When alive, Mrs Smith spent two days in January documenting her life.
Stephen said that the recording sessions included difficult topics involving her parent’s divorce and her life as an Indian immigrant. “She was also prepared to answer interesting questions about her views on politics, environment and the future, which was nice because I had never had those conversations with her before.”
How does StoryFile work?
The StoryFile system uses real pre-recorded responses to questions. Unlike ‘deepfake’ that can make a subject say things they didn’t mean to, this technology allows people to have real-time conversations.
Initially, the person recording their StoryFile is filmed answering questions about their life. This is done using special 3D technology, state-of-the-art sound equipment and depth kits. The footage is then processed by a team of experts, from tagging clips to training AI to provide responses to questions that are in natural forms and language. The final product is then uploaded on the StoryFile platform, letting people have a conversation that seems like a live interaction. Developers say that this system works with all connected devices as well as 3D and virtual reality systems. If met with an inappropriate answer, it encourages audience members to ask another question.
Stephen says that the platform allows an individual to capture his legacy in a way that no one else has. “It empowers them to pass on their values, struggles, life lessons, morals, decisions and so on.”
Famous celebrities have also chosen to work with the platform to capture their life stories. Star Trek Star William Shatner has recorded information about the television series – that will only be revealed after his death.
Another StoryFile was filmed by Martin Luther King’s former lawyer Clarence Jones, who believed that after his passing, the recorded data will be of huge importance to understand the American civil rights movement. Stephen has recorded 77 StoryFile versions of individuals from war-torn areas of Ukraine ever since President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared as a hologram in Paris, pleading to turn the country into a digital democracy with the aid of tech companies.
Holograms have blurred the lines between real and illusion. As artificial as it may seem, StoryFile’s efforts to bring back the dead to life have emerged as a new way to keep history alive. Marina Smith might have departed, but is still alive in some ways. The finished product has been uploaded on the StoryFile platform.
Go ahead and interact with Mrs Smith here!