Here's how the latest tech is letting you interact with your late loved ones

Valentine's Day can be tough for those who've lost loved ones. Here's how the latest tech is keeping them alive on your screens

Mark Zuckerberg is among those considering including interactive programmes to 'chat to the deceased'.
Mark Zuckerberg is among those considering including interactive programmes to 'chat to the deceased'.
Image: Wiki Commons

Like something from a Black Mirror episode, the morbid concept of speaking to deceased loved ones has something of a dystopian feel. For some it's a cause for less concern and more connection.

One of these platforms is 2019's Hereafter AI. Launched after StoryFile, which was an immersive photo platform that allowed old videos to become interactive with users by having eye contact and reacting to questions and prompts, Hereafter AI takes it a step further by allowing you to store interactive data for your loved ones should you die.

When using Hereafter, MIT Technology Review's Charlotte Jee said she got to learn new information about the childhood of her parents while interacting with virtual counterparts. 

Fitness entrepreneurs Augie and Lynne Nieto used programmes such as StoryFile on their website for sufferers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis after Augie's death. On her first watch six months after Augie's death, Lynne shared with The New York Times that “it was a little hard to watch” as it captured what their usual conversations were like.

While many might remember the long-forgotten paper clip that would assist Microsoft users in its heyday, they recently scored a patent for a chatbot that was “too disturbing” for accessing the personal information of the deceased to create interactive conversations or even music. On the other hand, You, Only Virtual has caused a stir for its promise that you “never have to say goodbye” in an attempt to make sure people won't have to feel grief.

Associate chair of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford School of Medicine, Dr David Spiegel, said these programmes could help people grieve in the same way as paging through a photo album.

“The crucial thing is keeping a realistic perspective of what it is that you’re examining — it’s not that this person is still alive communicating with you,” he said, “but that you’re revisiting what they left,” he told The New York Times.

In a recent podcast interview, Mark Zuckerberg explained the possibility of using the same technology in his offerings but was concerned about how unhealthy it could become. For now the introduction of interacting with the deceased is on hold until they have concluded further research on the topic.


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.