NEW YORK (PIX11) — Imagine you could live forever, or you could go back in time and ask your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents about their lives and their experiences. That is now a possibility, thanks to a new concept called StoryFile.
“It is basically a video that talks back,” said Stephen Smith, co-creator and CEO of StoryFile. “My cofounder and wife and I were concerned about the preservation of the memories of Holocaust survivors. We asked, ‘How do we ensure that important piece of history is preserved for future generations?'”
That was how the platform came to be. With the platform, Smith was able to let his mother virtually attend her own funeral.
“We wanted to be able to have a conversation with the past,” said Smith. “I hadn’t planned to bring my mother’s StoryFile to her funeral. But after we buried her, and everyone got around, saying beautiful things about her, towards the end, I said, ‘I’d love to ask Mom a few questions.”
Naturally, the experience was incredibly emotional for the family and friends attending the ceremony, but it also offered comfort. “Her friends were like, ‘That’s Marina!'” said Smith. “Those were her smile, her expressions, things that everyone was missing at that moment.”
Through an extensive library of content fed in by the user, StoryFile utilizes real-life expressions, mannerisms, and even accents, with the support of artificial intelligence, to create high-resolution video responses.
“You ask a set of questions, the person answers those questions, and in the answers are a lot of things that are not in the original question,” said Smith. “You could ask, ‘Where were you born?’ and I would say, ‘I was born in Derby, England. By the way, that’s the home of Rolls-Royce, and they have an amazing soccer team.’ Suddenly, I’m talking about other things other than where I was born.”
This is when alternative intelligence comes into play. The system looks through all the content that is there, processes it, and brings back the video with the information you are looking for. “AI does not create the content,” said Smith. “It accesses it and generates a response based on what was prompted.”
Safety is always a top concern when it comes to AI. Just last July, the U.S. Senate held a hearing to discuss the regulation of the new technology in hopes of understanding and creating adequate guidelines. “We have a fear of AI because we don’t understand what we don’t know,” said Smith. “It is a very powerful tool. In the wrong hands, you could do a lot of damage with it. But it is not damaging by default. It’s programmed to do certain things. We will regulate, and we should regulate it.”
As for what the future holds, at the pace AI has developed lately, it is impossible to predict where the technology will stand in the next six months or a year. Smith believes that there will be a necessary learning curve across different industries, such as music, film, the news industry, and even in our day-to-day lives. He also hopes that, with time, the public will be able to understand, operate, and live longer – at least virtually – thanks to the new technology.