Amazon teaches Alexa to whisper, pause, and express emotions in her responses

Amazon wants to make Alexa sound more human, but it needs those who develop skills for the platform to help with that.

Alexa uses the XML-based ‘Speech Synthesis Markup Language’, giving developers the freedom to change its speech pattern and characteristics. It’s a straightforward and standardized way of doing it, but Amazon is now adding five new tags to make it slightly more powerful.

The new tags give Alexa the ability to whisper or add emphasis to certain words, perhaps adjust the pitch, volume, or rate of her speech, and pause between long sentences. It can even go as far as bleeping certain words, which may be very slightly inhuman.

Of course, this freedom of expression means that skill developers can make Alexa speak in a number of ways, but Amazon has pretty clear intentions – make Alexa more human. To make sure of it, the firm has set up a few limits on how much these characteristics can be changed.

The new tags are rolling out for Alexa in the UK, US, and Germany. Amazon also explained the individual tags and their usage on their blog and created a handy little quiz game template to showcase how these features can work.

Additionally, Amazon is rolling out ‘speechcons' for Alexa in the UK and Germany. As the company puts it, “speechcons are special words and phrases that Alexa expresses in a more characterful way, making the user experience even more engaging and personal”. Speechcons were already available in the US, but now Alexa can say words like "Blimey" (in the UK) with that extra zing to make the expression more human.

These features are great, but their implementation relies on developer support. There are over 12,000 Alexa Skills available on its marketplace, but it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many of them are still updated and maintained.

Nonetheless, Amazon has done its part to make Alexa a better assistant. These speech enhancements will surely help the assistant better judge your looks.

Source: Amazon Developer Blog 1, 2 via TechCrunch

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