Alexa, you’re a clever little gadget, and helpful at times, but I also find it really weird and creepy talking to you.
Is it because you’re made of microchips, a speaker and some clever software, and talking to you makes me feel like humanity is on the verge of a Skynet-esque catastrophe which could reshape humanity as we know it? Or is it just because your voice is all automated and a bit weird?
Let’s say it’s the latter. Which, thankfully, there’ll soon be a remedy for, as Amazon has announced we’ll be able to have none other than Samuel L. Jackson voicing our smart speakers. Because when the the robots do eventually come to overpower us, it’ll be pretty funny to hear them quote Ezekiel 25:17 before they strike us down with great vengeance and furious anger.
Get ready for a much cooler, much more sweary Alexa, as Samuel L. Jackson has been announced as the first of a number of celebrity voice options that’ll soon be available for Amazon’s smart speakers.
Jackson’s voice will reportedly be available later this year, which users can download for the special introductory price of 99 cents. There’ll also be an option for clean and explicit modes, because ‘I’ve had it with these snakes on this plane’ just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it without Jackson’s inimitable, cuss-laden delivery.
The news was revealed at Amazon’s Amazon Devices event in Seattle this week, where plans to make Alexa sound more natural and human were announced. Thanks to new Neural Text-to-Speech technology, the software will also be able to replicate speech inflections of real people – meaning Sam Jackson hasn’t pre-recorded any phrases, the device is synthesising his speech inflections in real time, as Variety reports.
Once users have downloaded the voice pack, they’ll just have to say ‘Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson’, and choose whether they want him to use clean language, or don’t mind a few expletives thrown in.
Unfortunately, it seems Jackson’s voice can’t replace Alexa’s as a whole, but users will be able to say commands such as: ‘Alexa, ask Sam to wake me up at 7am’, ‘Alexa, ask Sam to sing me happy birthday’, or ‘Alexa, ask Sam to get me the recipe for a Big Kahuna burger’.
As well as the celebrity voice pack, Amazon announced it will be rolling out a multilingual mode for households who speak more than one language. While General Motors will be integrating Alexa into its vehicles from next year, joining the likes of Toyota, BMW and Ford who have already signed up to do the same.
Alexa, ask Sam what they call a Big Mac in Paris.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.