A recently-deceased woman has been able to speak with her family after her cremation, thanks to the power of artificial intelligence.
Marina Smith, 87, passed away in June 2022 and, thanks to startup company StoryFile, was able to have a fully fledged conversation with her family using its ‘holographic conversational video experience’.
The company was actually created by Smith’s son, Stephen, and was originally made to preserve the memories of Holocaust survivors. Utilising 20 different cameras, Smith was asked around 250 questions prior to her death and this information was fed through a piece of software that was able recreate her virtually after her passing.
What’s even more amazing is that this software isn’t just for the ‘rich and privileged’, as one may think. Ranging from a free trial sporting 33 questions and one-minute video answers to a $499 one-time premium package, anyone can gain access to the technology and use it to create these videos however they see fit. The company even has special ‘Story Pack Bundles’ starting at $49 which can be gifted to your mum, dad or someone special.
As you can imagine, being able to converse with the dead must have been quite a shock to the attending family, as Stephen was able to have a conversation with his late mother in real time and even opened the floor to questions from the rest of her family.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Stephen said: “Mum answered questions from grieving relatives after they had watched her cremation.”
“The extraordinary thing was that she answered their questions with new details and honesty,” he continued. “People feel emboldened when recording their data. Mourners might get a freer, truer version of their lost loved one.”
However, Smith isn’t the only who has been brought back from the great beyond with the help of AI. Elf star Ed Asner was also able to answer the questions of mourners at his funeral earlier this year. Asner’s son, Matt, told Axios last month: “Nothing could prepare me for what I was going to witness when I saw it.” Matt went on to mention that others were “a little creeped out by it” because it was “like having him in the room.”
Not only has StoryFile provided a product to let you connect with loved ones who are no longer here, they have also used it to bring history alive in the form of their Black Voices Collections. From American poet Nikki Giovanni, to civil rights activist and one of the original Freedom Riders, Hank Thomas, this collection allows you to ask questions and dive into Black history like never before.
While this new method of communicating with the dead is extremely impressive, if a little creepy, StoryFile isn’t the only company working on such technology. In 2022, tech giant Amazon showed off a new feature on its Alexa device of a dead nan reading her grandchild a bedtime story.
A little unsettling if you ask me, however, this type of technology seems to be picking up and, who knows, maybe in a few years time the dead will only be a phone call away?
Dementia and its cure has evaded the medical community for decades, with the diagnosis of the disease alone needing several scans and tests. Currently a dementia diagnosis could take multiple weeks or even months to be confirmed—wasting valuable time for the lives of people living with the condition. Now there seems to be a new breakthrough: Artificial Intelligence (AI). With all the genuine concerns about the power of AI—from deepfakes to scary robots—here we are, finally at a positive standstill. With a single brain scan, AI could diagnose dementia and more. So, how does it work?
The AI system developed by UK scientists—which is being trialled at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and other memory clinics across the country—will compare the brain scans of concerned individuals with scans of existing dementia patients along with any relevant medical records. Not only can the AI system diagnose or predict dementia in people (with this cross-referencing), but it can also determine the severity of the condition. The technology will be able to measure whether the patient will remain stable for years to come, or in more serious cases, require immediate treatment.
The BBC, who initially reported the story, showcased the scientists behind the AI technology. Cambridge University’s Professor Zoe Kourtzi—a fellow for The Alan Turing Institute (a national centre for AI and data science)—developed the AI dementia system, told BBC News, “If we intervene early, the treatments can kick in early and slow down the progression of the disease and at the same time avoid more damage. And it’s likely that symptoms occur much later in life or may never occur.”
You may be wondering why the doctors don’t look for those patterns themselves. Well, the sophisticated algorithm backing Kourtzi’s AI system, from a single brain scan, can identify dementia patterns across thousands of scans and medical records that even medical professionals and neurologists cannot see. The AI system’s advancement has been proven in preclinical tests to be a tool that is able to diagnose dementia even before any symptoms are exhibited. In simpler terms, it can detect whether you have it before you do. This could revolutionise dementia treatment. Doctor Tim Rittman, a consultant neurologist, is leading the study trials (alongside the team of neurologists from Cambridge) across the country that would put this technology into practice.
Rittman told the BBC that this AI technology is a “fantastic development” in the fight against dementia, “When I am delivering this information to a patient, anything I can do to be more confident about the diagnosis, to give them more information about the progression of the disease to help them plan their lives is a great thing to be able to do.” The trial’s aim is to identify whether this AI system will work in a clinical setting—with 500 patients expected to participate in the first year. Their subsequent results will then be forwarded to their doctors, who can then advise on the next course of action.
And while that’s underway, it is also important to engage in preventative care to keep your brain healthy. So put on your healthy thinking caps and brace yourselves for more innovative AI solutions in healthcare to follow. Now we’re looking at you, pulse oximeters.