Developers making voice apps for Amazons Alexa can now use different voices to power their experiences. The voices are being provided for free through the AWS text-to-speech service Polly. Created in 2016 with the same conversational AI that powers Alexa, Polly can speak in nearly 50 voices in 24 languages, but at its start, only eight Polly voices synthesized to sound more human are being made available in developer preview for English-speaking Alexa skills in the United States. Prior to the introduction of voices from Polly, developers were able to change a voice in a skill experience with the use of pre-recorded MP3 files. Skills developers will be able to add Polly voices using Speech Synthesis Markup Language (SSML). First introduced for Alexa last year, SSML is a set of tags that can be added when constructing an Alexa skill for human-sounding expressions like Boom! and Bada Bing, noises like sighs and expletive beeps, and the ability to lower Alexas voice to a whisper. The ability to use different voices is the latest feature extended to Alexa developers. In-skill purchases opened for Alexa developers in the U.S. earlier this month. The news comes a week after Google gave its Assistant six new voices, plans for an Assistant voice with singer John Legend, and the debut of Duplex, AI that uses WaveNet speech synthesis to generate a human-sounding voice that makes reservations or schedules appointments over the phone. No word yet on when Alexa will get more voice options or the ability to give users the choice to speak with a male or female voice.
Amazon today announced a developer preview for Alexa that brings eight new free voices to Skills. Its not quite the vocal overhaul that Google Assistant is getting, but its a start. Heres the deal: Alexas getting two more voices than Google Assistant, but these wont replace the one youre used to hearing – nor are any of them voiced by John Legend. Are you doing business in Amsterdam in May? The new developer preview allows programmers to integrate voices from Amazons Polly, a text-to-speech platform, into Alexa Skills – add-on utilities which include games, entertainment, and new abilities. It wont change the voice you hear when you say Alexa, what time is it? however, which is a bit of a letdown. Why you should care: This gives developers the ability to use different voices without having to upload MP3 files or create custom audio tracks. And making it easier to add diversity to Skills is good for everyone who uses them. According to a company blog post: Using Amazon Polly, you can choose a different voice for any utterance by using the Structured Speech Markup Language (SSML) and specifying an Amazon Polly voice using the voice name tag. Its as easy as that. You can even use an Amazon Polly voice for every utterance in your skill if you like. If a developer wants to create a Skill where, for example, two characters have a conversation (like a female-sounding voice telling a knock-knock joke to a character with a male-sounding voice) theyll now be able to do so without any additional work. The integration is free. Developers interested in the preview can follow this link for more information. Consumers interested in learning more about Alexa Skills can either visit Amazons page or ask their Alexa device to tell them about Skills. The Next Webs 2018 conference is almost here, and itll be . Find out all about our tracks here.