Alexa Celebrates Hindi Anniversary With iOS and Android App Expansion, 40% Fewer Speech Errors
Amazon has added Hindi support to the Alexa app on iOS and Android devices. The new feature comes a year after Amazon first introduced Hindi and Hindi/English hybrid Hinglish as options on Echo smart speakers and is part of the company’s celebration of that anniversary and the 60 new features in Hindi added to the voice assistant since then.
Alexa’s Hindi capability came two years after Amazon first brought Alexa to India, where the language is spoken by more than 500 million people. Until last year, Alexa could only speak in English in India, albeit with some understanding of local terms and names. Amazon appealed to the public to help build the Hindi vocabulary with the Cleo app asking users to translate sentences in English into local languages in a game.
Since the official debut of Hindi, Amazon has added dozens of features mirroring what Alexa can do in English, such as speaking in a whisper, changing how fast Alexa talks, and the ability to understand 50 kinds of song requests. Alexa is also just better at understanding Hindi, with speech recognition errors dropping by more than 40%, according to Amazon. For the anniversary, Amazon added six original songs and poems and 20 stories in Hindi.
“India’s unique cultural and linguistic diversity has always inspired us to make Alexa more local and relevant for users in the country,” Alexa lead in India Puneesh Kumar said in a statement. “Introducing Hindi made Alexa accessible to hundreds of millions of native Hindi speakers. We have made several improvements in Natural Language Understanding. For example, Alexa was not able to understand words like ‘dhai’ [two and a half] & ‘tham jaa’ [wait] in the beginning, but now she does. Similarly, we will continue to make Alexa interactions in Hindi even more seamless and conversational.”
Alexa is growing in popularity, according to Amazon. There are now more than 1,000 skills in Hindi available double the launch number, with hundreds of thousands of requests in Hindi and Hinglish made every day. As a less scientific measure, Amazon claims someone declares their love for Alexa at least once a minute in India, and there is a similar rate of marriage proposals to the voice assistant. Adding Hindi to Alexa on mobile apps and highlighting the improvements for Alexa in Hindi are part of Amazon’s strategy for India. Alexa is a critical element for the company’s efforts in the country, as seen in some of the other features recently announced for Alexa. One of the most significant was announced earlier this week when Amazon revealed that
Amazon Fire TVs can now run Alexa Routines, the combination of commands Alexa carries out from a single command, as well as converse in Hindi with customers in India. The new features continue Amazon’s work integrating the voice assistant with its smart TV platform this year, transforming them into almost a new kind of Echo Show smart displays.
Alexa voice commands have been part of the Fire TV platform for a few years, controllable through set-top boxes, remote controls, or Alexa-enabled smart speakers. The voice assistant only accepted one command at a time until now, however. Incorporating Alexa Routines opens up a lot of new options for Fire TV owners. A single command could start a show, turn off smart lights and set an alarm for the morning, or turn off the TV, tell you the weather, and start a music playlist of your choice.
“Sure, you can ask Alexa to pause your show and then turn on your smart lights, or rustle around to find your remote and get up to find your light switch,” Amazon explained in a blog post, “But, starting today Amazon customers around the world can now include Fire TV commands with their Alexa Routines — taking a bunch of things you can do with Alexa and your smart home, and bundling them together seamlessly.”
Alexa Routines originally only offered a few abilities provided by Amazon before adding third-party skills near the end of 2019. Earlier this month, Amazon broadened the options for Routines enormously by allowing users to write custom commands for them directly into the Alexa app. With Fire TV as part of that Alexa ecosystem, the custom commands activating the Routines can include playing a specific show or movie, opening a streaming service, or adjusting the volume of the TV. These homebrewed Routines are also sharable, and you can send your favorite TV Routine to friends attached to a link or QR code.
Though the Routines are limited to Fire TVs in the U.S. for now, there will be a lot more conversation with Alexa on the smart televisions with the inclusion of Hindi as a language option in India. Though the voice assistant has been able to speak in Hindi via Echo smart speakers since last year, Fire TV owners had to use English when accessing the voice assistant on the smart television platform until this update. Users who change the language choice in their settings to Hindi will not only hear Alexa speak the language; they will also see it replace English as the text on the screen.
Amazon’s decision to expand Hindi access to Alexa fits with the company’s larger strategy in the country. It’s why Amazon decided to hire Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan to be a celebrity voice for Alexa in Hindi beginning next year. Bachchan will be the first celebrity Alexa voice in India and the first in Hindi. Meanwhile, Indian shoppers can use Alexa to browse the Amazon store app and ask the voice assistant to make utility bill payments. The smart TV language expansion is part and parcel of Amazon’s drive toward making Alexa more dominant in India.
will be a voice option on Alexa next year, the first in India and the first in Hindi. Indian shoppers can use Alexa to browse the Amazon store app and ask the voice assistant to make utility bill payments. It’s also why India is where Amazon debuted its portable smart speaker, the Echo Input, and where the Alexa Auto was first sold outside the U.S.