Qingming Festival: AI ‘resurrects’ loved ones for bereaved families 

People pay tribute to their late family members with flowers in Babaoshan People’s Cemetery in Beijing, capital of China, March 31, 2024. /CFP

People pay tribute to their late family members with flowers in Babaoshan People’s Cemetery in Beijing, capital of China, March 31, 2024. /CFP

The once fantastical concept from science fiction movies of using artificial intelligence (AI) technology to recreate the appearance, voice and even the exact personality of deceased individuals, enabling interaction between “digital life” and their bereaved families, is becoming a reality in China.

In the run-up to this year’s Qingming Festival, or Tomb Sweeping Day, on April 4, multiple commemorative activities were held across China. Among them, the ones for body and human organ donors were hosted in southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality.

This year, upon the consent from the donors’ families, the deceased loved ones can virtually reunite with those still on this earthly plane via the big screen in Chongqing municipal human organ donation memorial park free of charge, as part of a special commemoration. 

For Huang Jingya, the daughter of a local donor named Diao Panya, this Qingming Festival has brought a sense of warmth and solace, thanks to modern technology. “Her sudden departure from this world left us with eternal regret. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to see my mother again in this way,” Huang said.

People pay tribute to body and human organ donors in Chongqing municipal human organ donation memorial park, Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, March 28, 2024. /CFP

People pay tribute to body and human organ donors in Chongqing municipal human organ donation memorial park, Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, March 28, 2024. /CFP

AI commemoration service

Chongqing’s organ donation management center and Fushouyuan international group teamed up to adopt AI technologies to recreate Diao’s image in the digital world exclusively for her daughter. Looking at her mother’s lively “face” and hearing her gentle whispers, Huang couldn’t help but burst into tears.

By integrating big data and relevant information of the deceased based on the wishes and memories of his or her relatives and friends, a digital replica of the deceased can be created, available only for the family members.

The practice can satisfy the desire of some family members to “talk” with their loved ones once again. It can also be further developed into a customized online memorial hall to better preserve their common memories about the deceased.

This novel AI application combines AI-generated content (AIGC) and virtual reality (VR) technology, which required constant optimization from the perspective of character generation, expression, synthetic display, recognition and perception, and virtual reality.

Students pay tribute to body and human organ donors in Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, April 2, 2024. /CFP

Students pay tribute to body and human organ donors in Chongqing Medical University, Chongqing Municipality, southwest China, April 2, 2024. /CFP

Diao Panya donated her kidneys and liver after her passing on June 7, 2023 at the age of 48. These organs were then used to save the lives of three patients. Sadly, Diao died suddenly, leaving her with no chance to leave any final words for her family members.

“Sometimes, farewells come too quickly or too late for us to say goodbye,” said Jin Leiyi, vice president of Fushouyuan international group and general manager of its western regional branch.

Last December, the company launched an AI commemoration service in six provincial-level regions, namely Shanghai, Chongqing, Jiangsu, Liaoning, Henan and Jiangxi, enabling families to view the “digital life” of their departed loved ones and offering some solace to their grieving hearts, according to the company.

In the future, the digital image of the deceased may even “participate” in memorial activities themselves, which is expected to help their family members better move on in the real world, said the company.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency