How to enable whisper mode on Alexa, and how exactly it works

Here's how Alexa understands your whispers vs. your regular speech

Amazon’s Alexa is a fantastic tool that’s constantly evolving to help us out with more of the things we need on a daily basis. But, it isn’t exactly practical if you need to talk to Alexa when your whole household is asleep. So, what are you supposed to do? Forget about it until the next day? Fortunately, Alexa has a whisper mode for this reason.

Read on, and we’ll show you how you can enable whisper mode, so you and Alexa can whisper to each other instead of speaking at full volume.

Here’s how to enable whisper mode

There are a couple of different ways to get Alexa to start speaking ever so softly to you. The first method is simple. Just say “Alexa, turn on whisper mode,” and Alexa will respond with a confirmation that whisper mode has been enabled.

Another way to get Alexa to have soft, nighttime conversation with you is to enable the whisper mode setting in the Alexa app. Here’s how.

1. Open the Alexa app
2. Open the main menu and select settings
3. Select Voice Responses (located under Alexa Preferences)
5. Enable whisper mode by sliding the switch to the right into the “on” position

echo dot 2018 3rd generation
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Is it creepy?

Alexa’s whisper mode recognition is comparable to regular voice recognition. However, if you have background noise in the room, you’ll have to get close to the speaker in order for it to pick up what you’re whispering, where normally you might be able to yell a command from a distance even with the background noise. If you whisper something to Alexa and she doesn’t hear you, she’ll even whisper back and say “Sorry, I didn’t get that.” How does she sound when she whispers? It’s not creepy or robotic. Alexa’s whisper actually sounds a lot like a human’s.

So far, we’ve noticed that some Echo devices perform better in whisper mode than others. For instance, the Echo Dot performs exceptionally well in whisper mode, while the Echo Look understands whispered responses, but doesn’t whisper back consistently like the Dot.

amazon echo plus 2nd gen
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

How does whisper mode work?

For Alexa to use whisper mode, the smart speaker must be able to detect whether or not a person is whispering, understand what they are saying, and respond in the same manner. When you whisper, you’re not really using your voice. “Whispered speech is predominantly unvoiced, meaning that it doesn’t involve the vibration of the vocal cords, and it has less energy in lower frequency bands than ordinary speech,” explains Alexa Speech Group scientist Zeynab Raeesy in an Amazon Alexa Developers Blog.

Whisper mode utilizes long short-term memory neural networks (LSTMs), which are used in speech recognition. Alexa’s end-pointing process is also important to whisper mode. End-pointing is how Alexa detects when you finish speaking a command and expect a response. Silence is part of the input for the whisper detector though. By examining peak LSTM confidence data over frames of an utterance and making optimal adjustments, the Alexa speech scientists were able to solve this problem and make it so Alexa can understand and respond to both whispering and regular speech.

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