He decided to bring his father's memories back and honor him in the best way possible for this mother this holiday season.
Artificial Intelligence has always received mixed reactions from the public. Some consider it unethical, whereas others are grateful that AI has made carrying out their tasks in different professions easier. AI helps create miracles at times and bring back lost memories of loved ones and for that, one can't help but be grateful for the advancement of AI. Since this is the Christmas season, a man from St. Louis decided to use artificial intelligence and craft a perfect gift to surprise his mother.
Phillip Willett—who goes by @phillipwillett on TikTok—is a content creator and founder of a media company called The Content Guy and his heartwarming video in the TikTok community went viral with over 3 million views and counting. Willett told Good Morning America that the entire process of coming up with this unique gift. He shared that his wife, Kassandra, was the first person to come up with the idea of using AI to make a gift for his mother.
Willett has been using AI extensively in his professional areas lately. "At first, I was like, I don't want to wade into that. I thought it was kind of weird," Willett recalled of his initial hesitation to use AI to make a gift for his mom. The 27-year-old Willett later reevaluated the idea presented by his wife. He gradually found a whole community of online folks who were questioning the use of AI voice software to recreate the voices of their loved ones. Finally, Willett picked up ElevenLabs' text-to-speech software to curate the gift for his mother.
"The actual first words that I put into the program was 'Hi, honey.' And I can't tell you how many times I've heard my late father say that in my life, which was why it was the first thing I put in," Willett told the outlet, "When the program said it in his voice, I got chills all over my body. That's when I was like, I'm doing this no matter what." Upon opening the gift, his mother was instantly shocked and emotional when she heard her beloved husband's voice.
Willett also revealed that his father, John, passed away in 2022 after battling pancreatic cancer and Willett called him his hero. "I sat down at my desk at 7 a.m. and I had the finished product at 6 p.m., but I did not leave my desk the whole day. I became very invested in it very quickly," Willett quipped, "I just ran with it. And I'm really glad I did because it turned out so cool." Willett ended up not only recreating his dad's voice with the aid of AI but also putting together a video and photo compilation in a video book of John and his mom, Trish.
"I wanted the video to feel like it was like a portal, that she could open this book and just be immersed in it and feel the emotion of their relationship. What the AI was able to do with that video is encapsulate their whole life together," Willett told the outlet. He made sure to record his mom's reactions after opening the gift. "The video doesn't show it, but it's probably a 10-minute hug after that. I don't think we moved for at least five minutes and we were both just crying," Willett recalled the special moment.
Fellow TikTok users flooded the comment section with kind words for Willett and his family. @rqlvs_ wrote: "I lost my dad to pancreatic cancer two years ago. I don’t know if I could handle this, but I miss his voice so much." @danicollette commented: "I knew I was going to cry, but I still stayed because I think your dad deserved to be known." @sceriotti added: "An amazing gift. Technology is amazing. Hearing his voice just brings tears to my eyes. I miss him."
Willett supports the use of AI to generate something good and emotional when it's needed. "Because it sounded so much like his voice, everybody was just, they were truly speechless," Willett added. "I never would have recommended this until I did it myself and I saw the moment my mom had. When done correctly, when done in a cinematic way, I think it is the best thing you could ever give someone who's lost someone in their life," he concluded.
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