To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

AI resurrects singer who died over 40 years ago for car advert

AI resurrects singer who died over 40 years ago for car advert

The Brazilian advertising watchdog is investigating Volkswagen after ethical complaints called into question their use of AI

AI is a great tool for making anything seem possible, but when does it go too far?

The use of technology within the TV and film industries has been a way for viewers to watch the impossible, showing scenery, people and creatures that could never be born naturally on Earth.

But when it’s used to ‘resurrect’ those who have passed away for advertising purposes, it has the potential to spark controversy.

Such as with the latest AI conundrum of German motor vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen, who used this technology for the resurrection of a late Brazilian singer for their new car ad.

An adored Brazilian singer by the name of Elis Regina unexpectedly died of a suspected overdose in 1982, aged just 36, which left her three children without a mother.

Regina and her daughter were shown to be singing together.
YouTube/ @Volkswagendobrazil

Her death was devastating to her home country, which was evidenced by 15,000 fans showing up to mourn her loss.

So, it’s no surprise that many fans were left shocked when Regina suddenly appeared on their screens as an AI version of herself, performing a duet of the dictatorship-era anthem 'Como Nossos Pais' with her Grammy-winning singer daughter, Maria Rita, for a car commercial.

The technologically enhanced performance moved Brazilians to tears, with even the country’s first lady, Rosângela Lula da Silva tweeting: “It’s seven-something in the morning … and I’m bawling my eyes out.”

But did the carmakers go too far?

Taking 2,400 hours to produce for Volkswagen’s 70th birthday in Brazil, it called into question whether Regina would have approved of the collaboration herself, as she was known to be an opponent of Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship, which is something that Volkswagen collaborated with.

Elis Regina is a Brazilian treasure.

According to the Guardian, following complaints, Brazil’s advertising watchdog, Conar, will now investigate whether there was a breach of ethics, questioning whether the brand was correct “to bring a deceased person back to life” in their advert.

Conar promised a ruling in 45 days and stated: “Questions have been raised over whether [the use of such techniques] might cause some to confuse fiction with reality, above all children and teenagers.”

Volkswagen, however, has defended using facial recognition software on a female double playing Regina. They alleged that they had the blessing of her family to create the AI singer.

They said: “The idea … was to use artificial intelligence to create a unique moment that reunited … one of the greatest singers in the history of Brazilian music, and her daughter Maria Rita, a contemporary icon.”

Elis’s eldest son, music producer João Marcello Bôscoli, spoke to The Guardian about how her appearance within the advert gave “a more emotional, playful and artistic” side to what AI can be used for.

The ad sparked ethical complaints.
YouTube/ @Volkswagendobrazil

He said: “Elis has provoked a debate about the future … despite having physically died more than 40 years ago … I can’t think of another person in Brazil apart from Elis who could have generated this.”

Being only 11 when his mother died, Bôscoli described how he felt when watching a deepfake renaissance before the ad was aired.

“For a second … I allowed myself to embark on this fantasy of my mother singing with a daughter who lost her mother when she was four. It’s something that’s really moving – even when it’s in an advertising campaign,” he said.

Though many are concerned over what lengths brands will go to when using AI, Bôscoli instead predicted that it would become an invisible presence in our lives in the future.

“If they’d used an Elis lookalike nobody would have said anything. If it had been a cartoon of Elis nobody would have said anything … If it had been a woman who looked completely like Elis, nobody would say anything.”

Featured Image Credit: Volkswagen

Topics: Cars, Film and TV, News, Music