Samuel L. Jackson is Alexa’s First Celebrity Voice, But it Will Cost You a Dollar

Samuel L. Jackson can be your voice assistant for only a dollar. Amazon announced at its hardware event last week that the famous actor’s distinctive voice and personality is now a voice option for Amazon Alexa.

More Than Celebrity Soundbites

Amazon recorded Jackson’s voice and applied its neural text-to-speech (NTTS) technology to teach Alexa how to sound like him regardless of what it is saying. That means users can hear Jackson’s voice as a response from Alexa, even if the answer was not a phrase recorded in the studio.

But there are more features to be had from the Samuel L. Jackson version of Alexa besides the actor’s voice. Jackson also recorded several unique jokes, comments, and information about himself for users to hear. Though Jackson’s voice skill is flexible, it can’t do everything the Alexa voice assistant is capable of. The default voice will return when asked to do a shopping list, set a reminder or interact with other voice skills.

Because Jackson is well-known for both family-friendly and more adult fare, the voice skill comes in both explicit and non-explicit versions or what could be referred to as Snakes on a Plane and The Incredibles editions. Each version is currently available for $0.99, although the price will increase to $4.99 by the end of the year. Amazon said that Jackson is only the first celebrity voice in the works for Alexa and that more are planned to debut next year.

Celebrity Voice Future

Jackson isn’t the first celebrity voice to come out of a smart speaker. John Legend recorded several phrases for Google Assistant earlier this year. The difference is that Google Assistant mostly played what Legend had recorded, with a limited use of Google’s WaveNet technology to adapt his voice, while Jackson’s Alexa integration can say things he never recorded in the studio. What Alexa is offering is more of a celebrity version of the different accents and voices that Amazon and Google have been adding to their voice assistant options.

Celebrity voices are likely to appeal to plenty of people who might not bother switching from the default voice otherwise. The Adobe Analytics Voice Report released in June found that a third of the participants would like to have a celebrity voice as an option. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was the most popular option, followed closely by Will Smith. Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Chris Rock, and Oprah Winfrey rounded out the list of top choices for celebrity voice assistants. Samuel L. Jackson may not have made that particular list, but as Amazon’s top pick, he’s going to be leading the way for a new kind of fame.

Another question is why the $0.99 and $4.99 price points. Does Amazon believe celebrity voices will be the ringtones of the voice era and drive a lot of revenue? Is it how they are compensating celebrities for using their likeness? If there is revenue sharing it would create an incentive for Mr. Jackson to promote the voice further and could have significant upside for the actor over a simple, fixed fee.


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