Mourners Question Deceased Woman At Funeral Thanks to the Power of AI

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A woman who died last June has answered questions at her own funeral. Although Marina Smith’s “responses” were pre-recorded, a chatbot-like system selected them to fit the spontaneous questions asked by mourners.

Smith was the founder of the National Holocaust Center in the United Kingdom and campaigned to educate on the topic. Her funeral “appearance” was created by StoryFile, a company that had previously worked on interactive holograms representing Holocaust survivors in the US.

Rather than use AI to generate Smith’s responses, the company interviewed her over two days before her death, covering a wide range of topics from her life. At her funeral, the system processed questions from mourners and used AI to decipher the meaning and pick appropriate clips.

According to Smith’s son, she likely opened up more in the recording, knowing it would be seen only after her death. The question and answer sessions revealed previously unknown details of her childhood and religious beliefs.

StoryFile is turning the system into a commercial operation, tailoring interviews from a bank of 250,000 questions. Its website has a demonstration of a recording in which William Shatner answered almost 600 questions, though it says some answers involve information about his Star Trek work that he does not want revealed until after he died.

It has to be said the results are somewhat mixed and depend on the serious of the questions. Asking whether he watched the moon landings prompts a lengthy relevant tale, while asking who is the smelliest actor he ever worked with prompts a confident-sounding response about Marlon Brando that appears to be about physical presence in a more wider sense.

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