AI Startups Are Helping Grieving Families Talk With Deceased Family Members

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As AI continues to make its way into more avenues of life, bereaved loved ones are finding solace in AI-created voices and avatars in the likeness of a lost loved one. So much so that numerous AI start-ups are starting to cater to the needs of those left behind.

When a loved one passes away, it can be extremely difficult to let them go. While some deal with loss quickly and move on, others try their best to hold on any way they can to the person they loved. With that in mind, AI start-ups have created ways for the bereaved to do just that. However, the new trend is drawing some concerns over whether or not the method of coping is ethical.

One example of a person using an AI avatar to keep a deceased loved on around is Ana Schultz. She used Snapchat My AI to create her own version of her deceased husband. Schultz uses Snapchat to have the avatar of her husband send her messages, such as him suggesting what ingredients to use to make dinner with the items in the fridge.

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“He was the chef in the family, so I customized My AI to look like him and gave it Kyle’s name,” remarked Schultz in an interview with CNN. “Now when I need help with meal ideas, I just ask him. It’s a silly little thing I use to help me feel like he’s still with me in the kitchen.”

Anyone who has ever studied psychology probably knows there are five stages of grief. Those are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. One of the ethical questions being raised is when someone who is trying to cope with the loss of a loved uses an AI-created image of a loved one to keep from moving on to the next stage of the grief process. However, it could also be argued that doing so makes the grief process less stressful and painful.

Another example of people using AI to cope with the loss of a loved one is a group of volunteers who used AI to recreate the voice and appearance of a mother who passed away. The group created a screenplay, which enabled her adult and teenage daughters to see and hear their deceased mother respond to a letter the girls had written her. The AI created video showed the mother giving her kids credit for overcoming adversity, and providing emotional support to the rest of the family after her death.

Not everyone will find using AI to deal with the death of a loved one healthy. But for those who find a bit of peace and happiness within the storm of the grief process, it may mean being able to navigate a difficult scenario with a little less pain.