Folks who converse with Alexa on a regular basis may be interested to know that Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant will soon be putting a lot more feeling into her responses.
The team behind the smart technology has been making gradual adjustments to Alexa since its launch in 2014, and these latest changes continue that work.
In a post on the Alexa Skills Blog this week, Amazon’s Catherine Gao says the latest update introduces two new capabilities — emotions and speaking styles — designed to create “a more natural and intuitive voice experience” for people that use the digital assistant.
It means that, when appropriate, Alexa should soon be responding to your inquiries with a more realistic happy or excited tone, or one that conveys disappointment or empathy. The new capabilities have just landed for U.S. developers, with more countries expected to gain the functionality soon.
Gao notes that emotional responses are particularly relevant for games and sports activities using Alexa. You can check out some examples below:
So, in the case where someone answers a trivia question correctly or wins a game, Alexa can now respond in a happy or excited manner. In a similar way, Amazon’s digital assistant can now use a disappointed or empathetic tone if someone asks for their favorite team’s sports score and Alexa has to deliver the devastating news that they lost.
“Early customer feedback indicates that overall satisfaction with the voice experience increased by 30% when Alexa responded with emotions,” Gao said.
The company has also launched new speaking styles that match with a specific type of content, starting with news and music.
“The news and music speaking styles tailor Alexa’s voice to the respective content being delivered by changing aspects of speech such as intonation, which words are emphasized, and the timing of pauses,” Gao said, adding that listening tests revealed that the music style was perceived to be 84% more natural than Alexa’s standard voice, while the news style was considered as 31% more natural.
Anything that makes Alexa sound more natural has to be a good thing, and should pave the way for more realistic and meaningful exchanges with the digital assistant. Just don’t start believing it’s a real person you’re talking to (although a real person may be listening).
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