Alexa Will Play Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Day Message When Asked
Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas Day Message can be heard this year by asking Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Any Alexa-enabled device set to English, of any accent, will be able to play the audio of the speech once it airs at 3 p.m. GMT on Dec. 25.
The Christmas speech will be available during and after it airs at 3 p.m. to anyone who asks Alexa to “play Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas Day Message.” While Alexa has a unique pipeline to the broadcast, Google Assistant and other voice assistants can still play the speech by asking them to stream the BBC 4 radio station. The Christmas Day Message started in 1932 as a radio broadcast by King George V, which the current Queen continued upon her ascent to the throne in 1952, expanding to television in 1957. The speech has become more widely available as technology has improved, but this marks the first time a voice assistant has had direct access to the speech as it airs. This year will be the first in over three decades that the Queen is giving the speech from Windsor Castle instead of Sandringham in Norfolk, a decision made due to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.
“After a challenging year, millions of people from across the Commonwealth will be eagerly awaiting Her Majesty the Queen’s message on Christmas Day,” Alexa Europe director Eric King said in a statement. “By creating this world-first innovation, just as we did in 2012 with the release of The Queen’s Christmas Speech on Kindle, we hope that even more people will be able to enjoy the uplifting words of Her Majesty. This really is one for the history books and showcases just how far technology has advanced since the very first speech was delivered back in 1932.”
The decision to give Alexa users a connection to the Queen’s Christmas speech is a notable score for Amazon. The company has been working to integrate more fully into the United Kingdom in several ways over the last couple of years, and this is a symbolic but potentially important signal that it is succeeding. Making Alexa part of British people’s lives is why the voice assistant offers people in the country medical information directly from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), with Alexa searching the NHS website for answers to health-related questions. It’s also why Amazon made sure to prioritize the UK for its Alexa Answers crowdsourcing platform and to sell the Alexa Auto device and bring the voice assistant into the country’s cars. Of course, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Alexa. Members of Parliament have raised concerns about the voice assistant, writing to Amazon about Alexa spreading antisemitic information by using questionable sources and quoting information out of context.