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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Amazon Is Making a HUGE Change to Alexa's Voice


Fri 02 Jun 2023 | 09:53 AM
Yara Sameh

Amazon has revealed a huge change that will make interacting with its smart speakers a lot less fun.

After three years, the tech giant is retiring all three celebrity voices for its smart speakers – Samuel L. Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal and Melissa McCarthy. 

Amazon offered the voices for $4.99 as an alternative to Alexa, but these are no longer available for purchase on its website.

The feature was for US users only, although the tech giant does offer alternative voices for its smart assistant in the UK, such as Santa Claus. 

The firm, which released its fifth generation Echo Dot smart speaker last year, said customers can contact them for a refund. 

Customers who have purchased Jackson's voice can continue to use it on their speaker until June 7, while the other voices will last until September 30.

Amazon introduced celebrity voices back in 2019 with the Jackson voice option, which included an explicit mode that sprinkled responses with swear words, much like the actor's dialogue on famous movies like "Pulp Fiction" and "Snakes on a Plane".

The firm later added the voices of former basketball player Shaquille O'Neal and actress Melissa McCarthy as additional options. 

Amazon had recorded the voices of three celebrities in sound booths, but rather than just relaying the recordings to users, the tech giant used clever AI technology called neural text-to-speech (NTTS). 

Through feeding the AI the celebrity voice recordings, it was able to create synthetic speech, barely discernible from the real thing – although pre-recorded phrases from the chosen celeb get uttered too. 

 

It's unclear why Amazon has decided to shut down the celebrity voice feature, although reports suggest its Alexa division is losing money fast.

Alexa has experienced operating losses exceeding $5 million in recent years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Amazon users can still choose from a variety of voice options – including American, Australian, British, Irish, Canadian and Indian voices – by saying "Alexa, change your voice" or going into the Alexa app.

However, there is currently no option for regional British accents, despite calls for the tech giant to introduce them.

Alexa was the name of the female voice that originally came out of Amazon's smart speakers, although this has all changed of late.

In late 2021, Amazon started rolling out the male version of its smart assistant voice to UK users. 

That year, the tech giant also added 'Ziggy' as one of its wake words – words that users can say before a command to make sure the smart assistant is listening. 

The four other wake words are Alexa, Computer, Amazon, and Echo.