Cyber resurrections: AI renditions of lost loved ones trend during Qingming

Zhang Chaoyan
As the Qingming Festival arrives, the business of AI "resurrections" of lost loved ones has exploded in online popularity, as seen in a surge in its e-commerce searches.
Zhang Chaoyan

The trend of AI-generated videos featuring deceased celebrities has extended to ordinary people commemorating their loved ones.

As the Qingming Festival arrives, the business of AI "resurrection" of deceased loved ones has exploded in online popularity. The search for "resurrecting loved ones" on the e-commerce platform Taobao has seen a surge of 605 percent, making it onto Taobao’s trending topics.

Cyber resurrections: AI renditions of lost loved ones trend during Qingming

Products and services are offered with prices ranging from tens of yuan to thousands of yuan.

At a store with over 2,000 purchases of this service, a customer service member told Shanghai Daily that buyers need only provide one photo and one audio clip of their deceased loved ones for the AI resurrection video.

"If you just want the deceased to move in the video, the price is 20 yuan (US$2.76). It’s 60 yuan with the AI audio and 100 yuan with the cloned voice of the deceased," the staff member said.

In a 30-second display video, an elderly man with white hair gazes ahead and appears to be talking to his children. "Take care, work hard, and I'll miss you," he says.

The growing popularity of "reviving" the deceased through AI has given rise to a new emerging profession: the "cyber resurrectionist."

Zhang Wei, a seasoned cyber resurrectionist, told Xinmin Evening News that the recent trend of resurrecting loved ones is driven by dual factors, including the Qingming Festival and advancements in AI technology.

"Buyers want to give it a try to commemorate deceased loved ones during Qingming. Another reason is the widespread application of AI technology, which significantly reduced the production cost of AI digital humans," he added.

However, AI-related legal and ethical matters have emerged amidst the growing concerns surrounding the "AI resurrection" industry, particularly regarding the portrait and reputation rights of the deceased.

Liu Chunquan, a senior lawyer at the Shanghai Duan & Duan Law Firm, believes that applying digital human technology to the decreased must be done with the authorization of their family.

"If someone exploits the information of the deceased to make a digital human without being authorized, or even profits from it, he may be suspected of infringement. Although the deceased no longer enjoys the rights as a legal entity, their family members can still seek legal protection," Liu explained.

On Taobao, many sellers explicitly stipulate that their services are strictly intended for creating AI-generated representations of deceased loved ones and are not available for any other purposes, Shanghai Daily has learned.

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