Voice and text powered virtual assistant technologies are becoming common on today’s technology market. Each has its own functions and strengths. Apple has Siri on iPhone, Google uses Google Assistant for Android products and Google products, Microsoft has Cortana, and Amazon uses Alexa with their products such as Echo. Each assistant is designed to respond to user’s requests, with many of them giving verbal confirmations or clarifications after requests are made. But how are these voices designed and are these voices human? Specifically, who is the voice of Alexa?
The Voice Of Alexa: From Real Life To Artificial
In another article, we wrote all about the voice behind Siri. As Siri was one of the first voice-derived virtual assistants, Apple used the voice of Susan Bennet to inspire and create the assistant’s own voice. The voice actress had recorded her voice for another job when Apple purchased her voice tape. But what about other virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa? Today, newer voice assistants derive their own voice through machine learning. This process allows the virtual assistant to learn the nuances in language and how to respond to certain requests. Machine learning is commonly used by search engines to provide targeted advertisements to users. For the virtual assistant, the process is essentially like boot camp. So there is no human voice behind Alexa, but rather a conglomeration of voices that Alexa may have learned from the Internet or through machine learning. Although Alexa is always learning, it’s quite impressive that her voice has remained stable since her launch.
Why is the Voice of Alexa Female?
Many users of virtual assistants might find it odd that almost every assistant has a female name and sounds female (with the exception of some Siri options). Although users might want different options, research has shown that it is much easier to find a female voice that everyone finds pleasant than a male voice. It is slightly controversial, but so far most users have not complained about virtual assistant’s voices being harsh. If anything, some users feel odd being so curt with their assistants, like saying, “Alexa, stop.” Researchers have also found that human brains are hardwired to find a female’s voice pleasant. Currently, Alexa is limited in what languages she can understand. If or when Amazon decides to push Alexa to understand more languages, it will be important for them to investigate if users in their target countries prefer a male or female voice.
Changing The Voice Of Alexa
Although Alexa’s voice has been machine derived, users do have the option of changing her voice to have a British accent or to speak German. These languages were only made available in early 2017. To change the assistant’s voice settings, users have to go into the Alexa app, go to settings, and then select which language they prefer. Currently, English (American and UK) and German are the only two languages Alexa speaks and recognizes. Amazon hasn’t made it clear whether they have plans to teach Alexa to understand and speak more languages. There are options (skills) for users to have Alexa translate sentences into other languages but she can’t yet be trained to understand other languages. The translation skills have been derived by third-party developer groups and are clunky at best. Many users report that the translations are not perfect and are grammatically incorrect. For now, users only have the options of speaking to a female English or German speaking Alexa that responds to “Alexa”, “Amazon”, or “Echo.”
Alexa’s Voice Wherever You Want
As technology becomes more widespread and the top companies become more competitive, some tech companies have offered their services and products to the general public and startup companies. In early 2017, Amazon provided companies access to Alexa’s voice to use in their own products. For instance, the ecobee4 thermostat utilized Alexa in their product so the thermostat could function by voice command. The interworking of Alexa is not available for obvious reasons, but many companies are jumping at the opportunity of not having to derive a voice service for their products from scratch.