You can now talk to Amitabh Bachchan on Alexa. Amazon on Thursday released the voice of the 78-year-old Bollywood star as part of its efforts to amuse existing users and entice new consumers to use its voice assistant in Apple’s Google Assistant and Siri. With the new release, the US tech giant has also brought its celebrity voice feature to India. The feature film initially arrived in the United States with the voice of American actor and producer Samuel L. Jackson in 2019.
How to use Amitabh Bachchan’s voice in Alexa
Amazon has made Amitabh Bachchan’s voice available on Alexa for a starting price of Rs. 149 (MRP Rs. 299) for one year. You need to say, “Alexa, introduce me to Amitabh Bachchan” to acquire the voice of the celebrity. You can also get it directly from the Amazon website. Once payment is confirmed, you can start interacting with the actor’s voice. You can also interact with Bachchan’s voice using the activation word “Amit ji“Asking” Alexa, enable Amit ji wake up word. ” It will work together with the default activation word “Alexa”. This means that you can call the voice assistant using the activation word “Alexa” and at the same time use “Amit ji“to speak with the actor’s voice.
Formally announced in September of last year, Amazon has worked to enable Bachchan’s voice on Alexa in recent months. The experience aims to please your fans and attract new users to the voice assistant.
You can access Bachchan’s voice to hear the stories of his life, a selection of poems by his father and popular Indian poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, tongue twisters, motivational quotes and even your favorite songs. Amazon will also bring Bachchan’s signature style when requested for music, alarms and weather updates.
For example, you might ask: “Amit ji, play songs by Kabhi Kabhi ”or“Amit ji, Sholay ke gaane bajaiye”To listen to some old music tracks from the actor’s movies. You can also say, “Amit ji, tell me a funny story ”to hear some behind-the-scenes information from the actor.
You can also explore more about what you can do with the new experience by saying, “Amit jiWhat can you do?” In addition, the celebrity’s voice will provide answers in Hindi and English – just as Bachchan communicates with the audience.
Challenges in bringing the voice of Indian celebrities
Amazon began its work in the voice of the Indian celebrity by partnering with Bachchan last year – amid the COVID-19 pandemic and national blockades. Due to the restrictions, the company’s different engineering teams worked remotely from multiple locations including Boston, Poland, Seattle and the UK, Puneesh Kumar, national leader of Alexa, Amazon India, told Gadgets 360 in a virtual call.
Instead of adopting a traditional model, Amazon engineers used transfer learning to build the celebrity voice from remote locations.
“In transfer learning, you teach models to learn skills in a domain,” said Manoj Sindhwani, vice president of Alexa Speech, Amazon. “And then you take that learning and start transferring it to a second domain. So we started by creating a wake word template that had a medium-sized vocabulary. ”
Engineers took some references from Jackson’s voice to build the site. However, Sindhwani told Gadgets 360 that to capture the richness of Bachchan’s voice, the way he pronounces certain things, the way he speaks, the teams used different techniques with text-to-speech neural network (TTS) .
“We have to put a lot of energy into ensuring that a voice that everyone recognizes, they recognize every flaw. 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 has brought a two-word alert to Alexa in India. The company used multiple simultaneous wake word technology along with multi-target learning to allow its voice assistant to use the two word wake word alongside detecting the regular wake word of a word “Alexa”.
“It would have been a lot easier for us to go and do like ‘Mr. Bachchan’, ‘Bachchan ji’ or ‘Amitabh ji’, said Sindhwani. “Phonetically, this is much easier and we said, no, we want something, how would an average person want to interact with it? And quickly we thought, Amit ji, This is the way.”
It’s important to note that you won’t have Bachchan’s voice in all your questions. Queries that require general information, such as arithmetic and geographic problems, will still be answered in Alexa’s own voice. It was intentional, as the essence of bringing celebrity voices to Alexa is to get people to interact with the celebrities and not replace the original voice.
“What we hear from millions of customers around the world, not just India, is that they love Alexa’s voice, which they find very comforting,” said Kumar. “They love the personality they like to interact with. And then we got a lot of positive comments about things that customers already enjoyed doing with Alexa. What we hear from clients in the US, as well as India, is that we would love to be able to interact with a celebrity or famous personality who brings a distinct personality or style.”
Initially, Bachchan’s voice is limited to Echo devices. Amazon shopping app users on Android devices will also be able to interact with the new voice, but only in English at an early stage.
Kumar told Gadgets 360 that Amazon decided to keep it limited at launch, as it requires simultaneous wake words that are difficult to enable on Alexa-enabled devices.
“We want every feature of Alexa, every feature to be available on a multitude of devices, including third-party products and services. It’s just a matter of time, as we go forward, we get feedback and then we expand into other areas as well,” he said.
Would people pay for the new experience?
Bachchan’s voice in Alexa, of course, will be an exciting thing for her fans. But would people be willing to pay for the experience? Amazon is very optimistic.
“Customers today would pay a lot more money when they buy a movie ticket to watch a two-hour movie by the famous celebrity,” said Amazon’s Kumar. “This interaction is a one-way interaction. It’s not a two-way interaction. And so, when you start thinking about the convenience and pleasure of having a celebrity’s voice at your disposal to start a conversation, we feel it’s very innovative. This is very delicious. ”
Unlike Bachchan, who has fans not only in India but also in other parts of the world, his voice on Alexa is currently exclusively for Indian users. However, if you are not in the country, you can use voice by changing Alexa settings to India. Kumar also told Gadgets 360 that, over time, the company would also try to bring this product to more and more customers around the world.
A new way to tackle Apple’s Google Assistant and Siri?
India already has huge potential for Amazon to improve its Alexa and become a stronger competitor to Apple’s Google Assistant and Siri. The company introduced Hindi to the voice assistant in July 2019 and activated multilingual mode in September of that year.
Past moves are helping Amazon take Alexa to new levels. There are also 30,000 skills, including over 1,000 skills, mostly in Hindi, to make the voice assistant a more useful artificial intelligence (AI) product. Many of these skills come from third-party developers. Amazon told Gadgets 360 that there are 100,000 developers in India who are building new experiences for Alexa around the world.
That said, by enabling the new celebrity voice feature, Amazon is actually planning to get more user data that it would use to improve Alexa. Sindhwani, of the Alexa Speech team, told Gadgets 360 that the company in the past year alone has improved Alexa speech recognition by about 50% and language comprehension by 30%.
“We’ve also made a lot of improvements in how we detect it,” he said.
However, industry experts don’t think the celebrity voice feature would help Alexa be more successful in the growing voice assistant market.
“Being able to use certain celebrity voices is a great bonus for celebrity fans and can help give Alexa more personality,” said Ross Rubin, founder and principal analyst at Reticle Research, which analyzes technology adoption and use. by consumers around the world. “In a broader sense, however, it will not be such a significant growth driver for the agent.”
“I would see things like Amazon partnering with other companies such as hotel chains, retailers and other companies to use Alexa as a significant way to drive adoption as well as strengthen the ties between Alexa and apps like Alexa for Apps improvements we recently launched on Alexa Live ” he added.