Now Alexas voice apps dont have to sound like Alexa. Amazon today is offering a way for developers to give their voice apps a unique character with the launch of eight free voices to use in skills, courtesy of the Amazon Polly service. The voices are only available in U.S. English, and include a mix of both male and female, according to Amazon Pollys website. Amazon Polly was first introduced at Amazons re:Invent developer event in November 2016, and has been steadily ramping up its capabilities in the time since. The text-to-speech service today is capable of things like whispering, speech marks, using a timbre effect, and dynamic range compression – all which make the voices sound more natural. While the speech engine today supports a couple dozen languages, only the U.S. English voices are being offered to Alexa developers at this time. But their addition could make some of Alexas skills more engaging – especially those involving different characters, like an adventure story or game, for example. Developers today may already be using multiple voices in their skills, but the process of doing so is more cumbersome and rigid, as with mp3 file uploads. To use an Amazon Polly voice instead, developers would use Structured Speech Markup Language (SSML) and then specify which voice they want with the voice name tag. This makes it easier to adjust what is said, as developers could just change the text instead of having to re-record an mp3. Amazon has been working to make Polly more accessible to a wider audience, recently by offering a WordPress plugin that could turn your posts into podcasts. The new Alexa skills integration, meanwhile, gives Polly another avenue of reaching consumers. Its also another means of competing with Alexas rival, Google Assistant. At Googles developer conference last week, the company announced six new voices generated by Wavenet, including one from singer John Legend. These will roll out later this year, and presumably, could make their way to the Assistant developer ecosystem as well.
On Wednesday, Amazon unveiled a preview allowing developers to use eight Amazon Polly US English voices for their Alexa skills for free, to make the skills more engaging. Adding new voices into a skill can make it more interesting for customers to use, according to an Amazon blog post. Developers may want to use the preview to give different voices to characters in games and stories, for example. Amazon Polly is a text-to-speech service that uses advanced deep learning technologies to synthesize speech that sounds like a natural human voice, according to the post. This allows developers to create speech-enabled products, and apps that talk to users. With voice becoming a more popular input, businesses can use Polly to differentiate their offerings on Alexa. Amazon Polly can also be used even if you already use multiple voices in your skill through .mp3 files or other techniques, the post noted, as Polly offers more natural-sounding voices and is easy to maintain. For developers with skills that use only one voice, changing it or adding another in the right place may offer a more engaging experience for customers, according to the 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," the post stated. "It's as easy as that. You can even use an Amazon Polly voice for every utterance in your skill if you like. " Developers can apply for the preview today by filling out a survey with ideas for using Amazon Polly voices in your skill. Amazon will provide more information to those who are selected. Those who are not chosen for the preview will still receive information on using Amazon Polly voices in Alexa skills when it is available. Creating engaging skills can pay off: Developers can make money through Alexa skills using in-skill purchasing or Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills, the post noted. Skills that drive high customer engagement can also lead to a payday for developers through Alexa Developer Rewards. To learn more about how to become an Alexa developer, click here.