You can now talk to Amitabh Bachchan through Alexa. Amazon released the 78-year-old Bollywood star’s voice on Thursday as part of its effort to amuse existing users and entice new consumers to use its voice assistant through Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. With the new launch, the US tech giant has also brought its Celebrity Voice function to India. The film first arrived in the United States in 2019 with the voice of American actor and producer Samuel L. Jackson.
How to use Amitabh Bachchan’s voice on Alexa
Amazon got the voice of Amitabh Bachchan on Alexa at an introductory price of Rs. 149 (MRP Rs. 299) for one year. You have to say, “Alexa, introduce me to Amitabh Bachchan” to buy the celebrity voice. You can also get it directly from the Amazon site. Once payment is confirmed, you can interact with the actor’s voice. You can also interact with Bachchan’s voice using the wake-up word “Amit ji” by asking, “Alexa, activate the Amit-ji wake-up word”. It works in addition to the standard wake-up word “Alexa”. This means that you can call up the voice assistant with the wake-up word “Alexa” and at the same time speak with the voice of the actor with “Amit ji”.
Officially announced in September last year, Amazon has been working over the past few months to activate Bachchan’s voice on Alexa. The experience should please its fans and attract new users to the voice assistant.
You can access Bachchan’s voice to hear the stories from his life, a selection of poems from his father and popular Indian poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, tongue twisters, motivational quotes and even his favorite songs. Amazon will also bring Bachchan’s signature style with it when asked for music, alarms, and weather updates.
For example, you can ask, “Amit ji, play songs by Kabhi Kabhi” or “Amit ji, Sholay ke gaane bajaiye” to hear old pieces of music from the actor’s films. You can also say, “Amit ji, tell me a funny story” to hear some behind-the-scenes information from the actor.
You can also learn more about what to do with the new experience by saying, “Amit ji, what can you do?” In addition, the voice of the celebrities will provide answers in both Hindi and English – just like Bachchan communicates in public.
Challenges in delivering the Indian celebrity voice
Amazon began work on Indian celebrity voice last year partnering with Bachchan – amid the COVID-19 pandemic and national bans. Due to the limitations, the company’s various engineering teams were working from different locations including Boston, Poland, Seattle and the UK, Puneesh Kumar, country leader for Alexa, Amazon India, told Gadgets 360 in a virtual call.
Rather than opting for a traditional model, Amazon engineers used transfer learning to create celebrities’ voices from remote locations.
“In transfer learning, you teach the models to learn skills in a domain,” said Manoj Sindhwani, vice president of Alexa Speech, Amazon. “And then you take what you have learned and start transferring it to a second domain. So we started by creating a wake word model with a medium-sized vocabulary. “
The engineers took some references from Jackson’s voice to create the ground. However, Sindhwani told Gadgets 360 that the teams used various neural network text-to-speech (neural TTS) techniques to capture the richness of Bachchan’s voice, the way he utters certain things, the way he speaks .
“We have to put a lot of energy into making sure that a voice everyone knows recognizes every single mistake. It’s not like my voice that nobody knows and even if there are certain flaws people won’t notice, ”he said.
This was also the first time Amazon in India brought a two-word wake-up word to Alexa. The company used multiple simultaneous wake word technology along with multi-target learning to enable its voice assistant to use the two-word wake-up word in addition to recognizing the regular one-word wake-up word “Alexa”.
“It would have been a lot easier for us to say it like ‘Mr. Bachchan ‘,’ Bachchan ji ‘or’ Amitabh ji ‘said Sindhwani. “They are a lot simpler phonetically and we said, no, we want something, how would the average person want to interact with them? And we quickly thought: Amit ji, that’s how it works. “
It is important to note that you will not receive Bachchan’s voice for all of your requests. General questions that require information, such as arithmetic and geographical questions, will continue to be answered in Alexa’s own voice. It was intentional because the essence of celebrity voices on Alexa is getting people to interact with celebrities rather than replacing the original voice.
“What we’ve heard from millions of customers around the world, not just India, is that they love the voice of Alexa, they find it very comforting,” said Kumar. “They love the personality they enjoy interacting with. And so we got a lot of positive feedback on things that customers have already enjoyed doing with Alexa. The piece we’ve heard from clients in the US and India is that we’d love to interact with a celebrity or celebrity who has a special personality or style of their own. “
Initially, Bachchan’s voice is limited to Echo devices. Users of the Amazon shopping app on Android devices can also interact with the new voice, but initially only in English.
Kumar told Gadgets 360 that Amazon decided to keep it limited at launch as it requires multiple simultaneous activation words which are difficult to activate on Alexa-enabled devices.
“We want all of Alexa’s functionality and functionality to be available across a wide variety of devices, including third-party products and services. It’s a matter of time before we do some kind of rollout, get the feedback and then expand it to other areas, ”he said.
Would people pay for the new experience?
Bachchan’s voice on Alexa will of course be an exciting thing for his fans. But would people be willing to pay for this experience? Amazon is quite optimistic.
“Customers are paying a lot more money today when they buy a movie ticket to see a two-hour film by the famous celebrity,” said Kumar of Amazon. “This interaction is a one-way interaction. It’s not a two-way interaction. So when you started thinking about the convenience and pleasure of having a celebrity voice available to initiate a conversation, we found this to be very innovative. That is very gratifying. “
Unlike Bachchan, who has fans not only in India but some other parts of the world as well, his voice on Alexa is currently exclusive to Indian users. However, if you are not in the country, you can use the voice by switching the settings from Alexa to India. Kumar also told Gadgets 360 that as time goes on, the company will seek to bring it to more customers around the world as well.
A new way to deal with the Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri?
India already has huge potential for Amazon to upgrade its Alexa and make it a stronger competitor to Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri. The company introduced Hindi for the voice assistant in July 2019 and activated a multilingual mode in September of the same year.
The earlier steps help Amazon take Alexa to a new level. There are also 30,000 skills, including over 1,000 skills, particularly in Hindi, to make the language assistant a more useful artificial intelligence (AI) product. Many of these capabilities come from third parties. Amazon told Gadgets 360 that there are 100,000 developers from India creating new experiences for Alexa around the world.
However, by enabling the new Celebrity Voice feature, Amazon is in fact planning to get more data from users that it would use to improve Alexa. Sindhwani of the Alexa Speech team told Gadgets 360 that the company had improved Alexa’s speech recognition by about 50 percent and speech understanding by 30 percent in the last year alone.
“We also made a lot of improvements to detection,” he said.
However, market experts do not believe that the celebrity voice function would help Alexa achieve further success in the steadily growing market for voice assistants.
“The ability to use certain celebrity voices is a nice bonus for fans of those celebrities and can help add personality to Alexa,” said Ross Rubin, founder and chief analyst at Reticle Research, which drives the adoption and use of technology analyzed by consumers around the world. “In a broader sense, however, it won’t be such a significant growth driver for the agent.”
“I would see things like Amazon working with other companies like hotel chains, retailers, and other businesses to use Alexa as a significant way to drive adoption and create closer links between Alexa and apps like Alexa for apps improvements that it has recently.” at Alexa Live, ”he added.
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