There are active LinkenIn and Twitter discussion threads about whether a new Super Bowl ad from Amazon is intended to foreshadow the addition of new voice options for Alexa. Since launch, Alexa has had the same voice and only one voice per country. She sounds different in Australia, England, the U.S., Germany and so on. However, once you set your home country, you have only had one pleasant sounding Alexa voice for all of your interactions.
“We have the replacements ready, just say the word.”
Notice the plural form of the word replacement. What do you guys think this mean? I think it mean that they will have more voices.
— Marcellus Pelcher (@SysCoder) January 27, 2018
Noted voice app developer Marcellus Pelcher pointed out that when the person tells Jeff Bezos, “We have the replacements ready,” she uses the plural form of replacement. The set-up is that Alexa has lost her voice presumably due to a cold or laryngitis and a replacement voice is needed. Could multiple voices be in Alexa’s future?
More Vocal Variety is Certainly Within Amazon’s Reach
Alexa rival Google Assistant has both male and female voices for defaults and offers two male and two female voice options for developers that launch Assistant apps. Those voices are all localized to the country-language and accent similar to Alexa, but there is more variety. Alexa may have only one voice today, but the Amazon Poly synthetic speech engine offers 52 voices in 25 localized languages/accents. So, Amazon has a broad set of options that are already available today.
Some other commenters on Mr. Pelcher’s post suggested that Alexa may bring out a celebrity voice or voices to for a couple of weeks to add some fun to the Alexa interactions. That is a clever idea but seems a bit risky from a brand perspective as so many celebrities seem to be getting into trouble these days. Well, maybe that’s always true.
Transitioning From Echo Device Awareness to Alexa Feature Awareness
Amazon used the Super Bowl the past two years to raise awareness about Echo and Alexa and the strategy is widely regarded as successful. It is interesting that in previous years, the effort was focused on introducing the device and this year that may transition to introducing people to a new, fun feature. If that shift occurs, it’s because device awareness efforts have already proven successful. The sales numbers in Q4 2017 would seem to justify that supposition. What do you think the “replacements” is all about? Let me know on Twitter if you have an idea.