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.
In an effort to resolve this non-voice problem, Alexa scientists examined peak LSTM confidence data over utterance frames and then made changes for optimal efficacy. These developments allow Alexa to understand and respond to different volumes, even whispers.
In our experience, some Echo devices are better at detecting whispers than others. For example, the Echo Dot’s performance is excellent, but the Echo Look is far less consistent.
Does it work well?
Alexa can recognize whispers about as well as normal voices, with one distinct difference. You have to be close to the speaker if you’re whispering, so Alexa can comprehend what you’re saying. That’s especially true if there are many background noises.
If Alexa doesn’t quite catch what you whisper to her, she’ll let you know by whispering back to you: “Sorry, I didn’t get that.”
Fortunately, Alexa’s human-like voice means her whisper isn’t disturbing or robotic sounding.
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