Holocaust activist seems to answer mourners’ questions at her funeral

[A vivid example of presence after death is described in this story from BBC News. Additional details from the Daily Mail follow below; the original version of that story also contains more images. A 1:33 minute video is available in DesignTAXI’s coverage (and available on YouTube), and you can interact with the StoryFile version of the late Marina Smith on her foundation’s website. For more on StoryFile and related projects, see the May 2021 ISPR Presence News post “Modern Spiritualism: How holograms, deepfakes, and AR are raising the dead.” –Matthew]

Holocaust activist seems to talk to guests at her funeral

Holocaust campaigner Marina Smith appeared able to answer questions at a funeral celebration of her life, thanks to new technology – her son has said.

Mrs Smith died in June, aged 87, but video technology, built by her son’s firm, meant those attending her funeral could watch her respond to their questions about her life.

Stephen Smith said it enabled his mother to be “present, in a sense”.

His company predicts many uses for its “conversational video technology”.

The use of the technology at Mrs Smith’s funeral was first revealed by The Telegraph [behind paywall].

Mr Smith, the chief executive and co-founder of StoryFile, told the BBC the technology meant, once a person had died, it was possible to have a conversation with them “as if they are there, and they will answer you”.

He said it meant his mother had brought “the aspects of her life that were most important to her to the people who loved her most. And it was very meaningful to them”.

His mother’s words were her own, and not the creation of artificial intelligence (AI), Mr Smith stressed.

So how does it work?

To make a conversational video, a person must make a recording while still alive, answering numerous questions about their life.

Later, after that person’s death, an AI system selects appropriate clips to play in response to questions from people viewing a remembrance video; the person in the video appears to listen and reply.

Rollo Carpenter, who created the chatbot CleverBot – and has no connection to Mr Smith’s company StoryFile – said the system was not trying to construct its own replies and was not using AI to invent answers.

“It’s just selecting from a pre-recorded set of sequences and cleverly allowing people to cause them to be played,” he said.

Celebrity interaction

Mrs Smith co-founded the National Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire, from where she ran a successful Holocaust education programme. She was awarded an MBE in 2005 for her work.

The founders of StoryFile hit upon the idea for the company while working on creating interactive holograms of Holocaust survivors for the USC Shoah Foundation.

The firm sees a wide range of possible commercial applications for the technology, from customer service to sales.

It has also encouraged some famous contemporary celebrities to document their careers using the tech, including the Star Trek actor William Shatner, whose video can be interacted with on the company website.

Looking ahead, Mr Smith envisages a world in which people document their lives on a continuous basis, suggesting that users could “speak to your 18-year-old self, when you’re 50, or introduce your children to your 16-year-old self”.

Previously, it has been suggested that AI could be used to create fully synthetic versions of dead people.

But Mr Smith rejects the idea that current technology is capable of this: “Everything about us is so absolutely unique to us,” he said. “There is no way you can create a synthetic version of me, even though it may look like me.”

Mr Carpenter agrees, saying that using current AI technology to create a “computer-generated” person would risk “putting words into the deceased person’s mouth – and it could be worse than that, those words could be believed by the audience”.

The limits of AI conversationalists were demonstrated by Meta’s BlenderBot 3, which was criticised for making offensive remarks and said unflattering things about the company’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta said that it was a prototype created for research purposes, adding it had warned users they should expect it to say things it ideally should not.

[From the Daily Mail]

Dead woman talks to mourners at her own FUNERAL: New AI-powered ‘holographic’ video experience allows grieving loved ones to engage in two-way conversation with deceased grandmother

By Jonathan Chadwick  and Fiona Jackson
August 16, 2022


‘The extraordinary thing was that she answered their questions with new details and honesty.

‘People feel emboldened when recording their data. Mourners might get a freer, truer version of their lost loved one.’


In January, she spent several hours over a two-day period recording answers to her Storyfile questions using a webcam and her computer.

Dr Smith said his mother answered questions about her early childhood at her funeral.

‘This included difficult topics such as the divorce of her parents and living as an immigrant from India,’ he told the Telegraph.

‘She was also prepared to answer interesting questions about her points of view on politics, the environment and the future, which was interesting because I had never had those conversations with her before.

‘Relatives were staggered by my mum’s new honesty at her funeral. She had previously been too embarrassed to reveal her true childhood.

‘A question about it at the funeral suddenly had her revealing her childhood in India that we knew nothing about.’


An individual who wants to create a StoryFile will first choose topics they think their friends and family will want to ask about, such as relationships or childhood secrets.

They will then answer 75 of a bank of 250,000 potential questions with two-minute video answers, that can be transformed into their digital likeness.

It does not put words into the individual’s mouth, like a deepfake video, but if it does not have an answer, the hologram will encourage the inquisitor to ask something else.

This entry was posted in Presence in the News. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


  • Find Researchers

    Use the links below to find researchers listed alphabetically by the first letter of their last name.

    A | B | C | D | E | F| G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z