Amazon announces Alexa update that lets virtual assistant express emotions such as disappointment when reading out sad news or excitement when announcing the winner of a game
- Amazon’s virtual assistant can now convey basic emotional states
- Alexa can use a sad or disappointed tone when reading somber news
- It can also speak excitedly when announcing the results of a game
- The different vocal styles will be available for developers to use in their apps
Today, Amazon announced a new program that will enable Alexa to convey emotions like disappointment and excitement when speaking to users.
For example, Alexa could speak with a noticeably happy and excited energy when announcing someone has won a hand in a card game, such as ‘Beat the Dealer,’ an audio version of blackjack people can play with Alexa.
The virtual assistant could also convey a sense of sadness or disappointment when answering a user’s query about whether their favorite sports team had won a recent game.
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According to a blog post by Amazon’s Catherine Gao, overall customer satisfaction with Alexa during internal testing increased by 30 percent when the virtual assistant conveyed some emotion.
According to Gao, the new features are intended to ‘create a more delightful customer experience for specific content.’
In addition to emotions, Alexa will also be able to use several different kinds of general presentation voices.
In one example, Alexa speaks in a a standard ‘News’ voice as she read out news stories with the inflection of a television or radio newscaster.
In another example, Alexa reads out a short news story in a purely neutral tone without any inflections.
These news-style voices are available in both American and Australian accents.
A final presentation style was intended for music content and has Alexa reading music-related stories in the vaguely friendly style of a radio DJ.
‘While conducting ‘blind listening’ tests, the news style was perceived to be 31 percent more natural than Alexa’s standard voice and the music style was perceived to be 84 percent more natural,’ writes Gao.
At the moment the features are intended primarily as examples for developers working on applications for Alexa.
Amazon shared bits of code from the markup language used to program Alexa so developers will be able to immediately have the virtual assistant use the different tones of voice in any of their applications.