Relatives can have video chats with dead loved ones from beyond the grave for £1,000-a-time.

Boffins can create virtual reality humans that mimic voices and facial expressions.

South Korean artificial intelligence experts who have pioneered the technology insist it will help friends and families cope with grief.

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But DeepBrain AI’s Joseph Murphy admitted the service was controversial, saying: “We’ve already found it to be really polarising.

“Some people love the opportunity to live on forever in this way but many people view it as inauthentic.

“But people like that they can share their memories after they’re gone and they want their family to remember them in a healthy state.’’

Business development manager Murphy suggested it was best suited for people with terminal illnesses who could spend several hours in front of a camera to allow the software to learn their mannerisms and voice.

It is expected to cost up to £20,000 to create a virtual person – then £1,000 each time a loved one wants a natter.

But Sue Gill, a volunteer with Cruse Bereavement Support, said: “This sounds bizarre and ghoulish.

“Lots of people, when they know they are dying, write letters or journals or make recordings. That’s using modern technology at its best.

“This feels slightly like they are preying on the bereaved.’’

The news recalls an episode of Black Mirror, the dystopian drama which explores the horrors that future technology might bring.

In the episode "Be Right Back", a woman pays for AI technology to recreate her dead partner in a computerised physical form.

The computer has the man's voice and personality which is downloaded from his extensive social media content and appears exactly as he did.

Inevitably, things don't work out particularly well, with the main character ultimately stuck with a lifelike machine which looks and sounds like him but isn't.

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