Sometimes, we need to be quiet. Shouting Alexa commands while your baby or significant other sleeps can cause undesirable results. Thankfully, Alexa has a “whisper mode” so we can do what we need to do quietly without causing utter chaos.
Engaging whisper mode is pretty straightforward, but how exactly does it work? Also, does it work as well as regular speech? We had other questions, too, like is Alexa’s voice creepy when it whispers? Here’s how it works, why it works, and how to turn on whisper mode.
How to enable whisper mode
There are a couple of different ways to get Alexa to start speaking ever so softly.
The first method is simple. Just say, “Alexa, turn on whisper mode.” Alexa will respond with a confirmation that whisper mode has been enabled.
Another way to get Alexa to have a soft, nighttime conversation is to enable the whisper mode setting in the Amazon Alexa app. Here’s how.
Step 1: Open the Amazon Alexa app.
Step 2: Tap the More tab located at the bottom right.
Step 3: Tap Settings on the list.
Step 4: Scroll down and tap Voice Responses listed under Alexa Preferences.
Step 5: Tap the toggle next to Whisper Mode to enable this feature.
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 the voice input, and respond in the same manner.
Problem is, 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 uses long short-term memory neural networks (LSTMs), which are used in speech recognition. Alexa’s end-pointing process — how it detects when you finish speaking a command and expect a response — is also important. Silence is part of the input for whisper detection as well.
To fix this non-voice issue, the scientists behind Alexa looked at peak LSTM confidence data over utterance frames and then adjusted accordingly for maximum efficacy. These optimizations are what make Alexa able to comprehend and respond to all volumes of speech, including whispers.
To date, we’ve found that some Echo devices are more adept at whisper mode than others. For example, the Echo Dot performs excellently overall, while the Echo Look doesn’t function consistently.
Does it work well?
Alexa’s whisper mode recognition is about the same as its normal voice recognition. The difference is that it’s necessary to move close to the speaker so Alexa can understand what you’re whispering, particularly if there’s a lot of background noise. If you whisper something to Alexa, and it doesn’t pick it up, you’ll get a whisper back: “Sorry, I didn’t get that.”
Thankfully, Alexa doesn’t sound creepy or robotic when whispering—she sounds, well, like a human.
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