Amazon wants to make Alexa sound like your human friends


Alexa can now whisper sweet nothings in response to your demands to order new toilet paper.
Alexa can now whisper sweet nothings in response to your demands to order new toilet paper.

Image: christina ascani/mashable

Alexa is always there for those of us with Amazon’s AI-enabled speakers, but when she speaks, sometimes it’s hard to tell that she really cares. 

We’re not saying we need to all fall in love with our smart assistants, Her-style, but hearing a little bit more warmth in Alexa’s automated responses could make the human-AI overlord relationship so much better. Or, you know, just make us more comfortable allowing a sophisticated AI system to learn just about everything there is to know about us.

Fortunately, Amazon has heard our cries for machine validation, and the company is finally giving Alexa the capability to speak like the true AI friend she is.

In a new blog post on Thursday, Amazon announced five new Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML) protocols for developers to use when they create their apps for Alexa. The new tags, which are employed through the skills’ code, cover a wide range of responses previously unavailable in the app script. 

These additions will help app developers mold Alexa’s speech patterns more specifically, allowing her to whisper, bleep out dirty words, or even change the pitch and speed of her responses. 

After all, if Alexa is going to critique all of our outfits, she should at least be able to disappoint us nicely.

Developers in the U.S., UK, and Germany will have soon have the five new SSML tags at their disposal to make Alexa’s voice more natural when users engage her for their skills.

Whispers will make Alexa speak softer, while expletive beeps will give her the chance to curse without offending your grandma. The sub tag will let the AI say something other than what’s written in the code, and the emphasis and prosody tags will make Alexa’s voice more natural, changing the volume, pitch, and rate of her speech.   

Amazon created a quiz game template on Github for developers to use to play with the new tags, giving them a shot to test them out before unleashing the new abilities in their own skills. 

So be nice to Alexa, Amazon users. The next time you ask her to do something, she might offer a friendly response … or she could just cuss you out in a series of extra-endearing bleeps.  

WATCH: Someone rigged Amazon Echo and Google Home to talk to each other and it’s hilarious



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