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This article was published on May 16, 2018

Amazon’s Alexa gets new voices like Google Assistant (kinda)

Amazon’s Alexa gets new voices like Google Assistant (kinda)
Tristan Greene
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Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan covers human-centric artificial intelligence advances, politics, queer stuff, cannabis, and gaming. Pronouns: He/him Tristan covers human-centric artificial intelligence advances, politics, queer stuff, cannabis, and gaming. Pronouns: He/him

Amazon today announced a developer preview for Alexa that brings eight new free voices to Skills. It’s not quite the vocal overhaul that Google Assistant is getting, but it’s a start.

Here’s the deal: Alexa’s getting two more voices than Google Assistant, but these won’t replace the one you’re used to hearing – nor are any of them voiced by John Legend.

The new developer preview allows programmers to integrate voices from Amazon’s Polly, a text-to-speech platform, into Alexa Skills – add-on utilities which include games, entertainment, and new abilities. It won’t change the voice you hear when you say “Alexa, what time is it?” however, which is a bit of a letdown.

Why you should care: This gives developers the ability to use different voices without having to upload MP3 files or create custom audio tracks. And making it easier to add diversity to Skills is good for everyone who uses them.

According to a company blog post:

Using Amazon Polly, you can choose a different voice for any utterance by using the Structured Speech Markup Language (SSML) and specifying an Amazon Polly voice using the “voice name” tag. It’s as easy as that. You can even use an Amazon Polly voice for every utterance in your skill if you like.

If a developer wants to create a Skill where, for example, two characters have a conversation (like a female-sounding voice telling a knock-knock joke to a character with a male-sounding voice) they’ll now be able to do so without any additional work.

The integration is free. Developers interested in the preview can follow this link for more information. Consumers interested in learning more about Alexa Skills can either visit Amazon’s page or ask their Alexa device to tell them about Skills.

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