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Eterni.me will create a computer version of you for when you die

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March 3, 2014

Eterni.me will create a virtual version of users that their loved ones can interact with w...

Eterni.me will create a virtual version of users that their loved ones can interact with when they have died

A new service promises to create virtual versions of its users that their loved ones can interact with after they have died. Eterni.me plans to collect as much data as possible about its users on which to base computer-generated avatars. The company says the experience will be "like a Skype chat from the past."

The idea of recreating the persona of someone who has died is not a new one. Perhaps the most notable recent interpretation of the concept was in an episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror TV series, which hinted at the likelihood of such services being developed and asked viewers to consider what impact such technology might have.

Eterni.me is aware of the Black Mirror comparisons and that many people will be uncomfortable with the idea. The company hopes, though, that by being positioned as a tool for accessing memories or researching ancestors rather than for dealing with grief, negativity towards the technology may be curtailed.

"We are very aware of the emotionality that is attached to the topic of death," Marius Ursache, CEO of Eterni.me tells Gizmag. "For us it is really important to emphasize that we do not want to preserve the banalities of the life of a person, but would much more like to create a legacy that allows your grandchildren to interact with their grandfather."

Ursache explains that Eterni.me has already been shaped by feedback and suggestions and says that this will continue, in particular with people's concerns about the service in mind. "We take scepticism of certain user groups very seriously and will try to enter into a mutual exchange with them to make our product even better," he says.

The service has been created out of MIT's Entrepreneurship Development Program. When users sign up, they will link the service to their various digital streams, such as Facebook, Twitter, emails, photos and geo-location history. Once data is being collected, Ursache says there are two main processes required – "making sense" of it and then using it to "emulate" the user.

"Of course, 'making sense' and 'emulating' are still primitive today," he acknowledges. "But by periodically interacting with this avatar, you will allow it to make more sense in the next 30-40 years that you still have to live. This way, it becomes more accurate and knows more about you in time."

The ability of Eterni.me to "make sense" of the data it collects will be key, but is one of the most difficult challenges the company has to tackle. The service will analyze both textual and visual information to choose what information can be used to help an avatar better emulate the user. Direct interactions with the user will help to make the emulation more accurate.

Ursache explains that the end result should be a tool that people can use to find out more about their forbears, such as photos, family events, opinions and hobbies. He likens it to a research tool, such as a search engine or timeline, and is clear that the aim of such technology should be to help people.

"I think technology should make our lives easier, period," he says. "If technology can help with leaving a legacy, or solving other problems for dead people’s relatives and friends – such as inheritance, access to information and so on – we should find a way to use it, of course without creating additional harms."

A private beta of Eterni.me is expected in late 2015 with the public launch expected in 2016.

Source: Eterni.me

About the Author
Stu Robarts Stu is a tech writer based in Liverpool, UK. He has previously worked on global digital estate management at Amaze and headed up digital strategy for FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology). He likes cups of tea, bacon sandwiches and RSS feeds.   All articles by Stu Robarts
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12 Comments

This reminds me of an episode of Max Headroom:



Skipjack
3rd March, 2014 @ 10:19 am PST

A sad and depressing vision of the future. But then again if it helps Superman to deal with the loss of his father Jor-El maybe this type of technology could help the human race as well.

Fredrik Pettersen
3rd March, 2014 @ 12:17 pm PST

Might be better viewed as a legacy vault, where information about a persons life is collected and collated. I'm quiet sure the CIA, FBI, GHQ and others will be happy to fund such a project or maybe they already have......

Brian M
4th March, 2014 @ 01:41 am PST

Death is natural. Just let people die already and move on with your life.

Rocky Stefano
4th March, 2014 @ 05:46 am PST

With a few program tweaks my wife may be more happy with the program than the real thing.

Captain Danger
4th March, 2014 @ 06:03 am PST

40 more years of nagging from dead in-laws - no thanks!

Pelotoner
4th March, 2014 @ 06:16 am PST

Grief is a natural part of life. This technology could threaten future generations' ability to come of age in a natural way. I think it reinforces immaturity.

Zoran Taylor
4th March, 2014 @ 12:16 pm PST

Resurrection is becoming more reality than science fiction every day. This virtual reality vision will be available as early as next year. Alan Turing suggested in 1950 a test. The idea was that a computer could be said to "think" if a human interrogator could not tell it apart, through conversation, from a human being. I should think that considerable progress has been made in the past 60 years in technology and algorithms to make this not only possible but inevitable.

Donald Head
4th March, 2014 @ 03:26 pm PST

Vital for this Internet & smartphone age, Yes, expand duplicate worldwide for needs

Esp for veterans overseas

serving.

A-Z

& place Video near tombstone or cremation pot etc.

Stephen N Russell
4th March, 2014 @ 03:47 pm PST

"For us it is really important to emphasize that we do not want to preserve the banalities of the life of a person, but would much more like to create a legacy that allows your grandchildren to interact with their grandfather."

"When users sign up, they will link the service to their various digital streams, such as Facebook, Twitter, emails, photos and geo-location history."

How can it not be about preserving the banalities of a persons life when the primary data is drawn from the largest pools of banality in a persons life?

Rt1583
4th March, 2014 @ 07:09 pm PST

The 'live' skype-like chat feature is a bit uncomfortable. Not sure about that.

I think something like using the information to email people different things relevant to only them, on the anniversary of the person's death would make a nice way of remembering and keeping someone's memory alive.

So instead of a chat with Mike (see image in article), Mike could receive an email with pictures of him and his departed friend and reminders of the time they had together, like fishing.

But then Mike feeling comfortable with that information about himself being possessed by a company, is another question. It's one thing to try immortalise someone but another to give lots of information out about other people in order to do so.

Mia H
4th March, 2014 @ 07:26 pm PST

With this hackers may take identity theft to a new high (actually low)

Riaanh
11th March, 2014 @ 04:25 am PDT
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