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 Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan 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.