Issa Rae’s Voice is Leaving Google Assistant
Writer, director, and actress Issa Rae’s voice is vanishing from Google Assistant this week after a two-year stint. The Insecure creator’s ‘cameo voice’ has been able to respond to a handful of questions and requests posed to the voice assistant, but will no longer be an option starting in October.
Issa Rae Assistant
Until Friday, Google Assistant users can still ask the voice assistant to “talk like Issa,” or activate it through the mobile app. Rae recorded jokes, affirmations, and responses to common questions about the weather, as well as anecdotes about awkward moments in her life. Those who have activated her voice for the voice assistant received a notification that the feature is leaving at the end of the month. Google made it clear that these celebrity voice cameos would be temporary when it introduced the concept at Google I/O in 2018, but there’s no specific standard for how long they are around.
Rae was Google Assistant’s second celebrity cameo voice. Singer John Legend’s voice was available for a year to Google assistant users, leaving the platform at the end of March last year. Rae and Legend’s presence combined pre-recorded audio with some audio synthesized to respond with Google’s WaveNet technology. Google hasn’t mentioned any plans for other celebrity voice cameos at the moment, but there’s no reason to think there won’t be more such partnerships in the future as it benefits both parties. Google can entice new potential users and possibly increase engagement with existing ones, while the celebrity can leverage their AI clone to promote whatever project they have in the works.
The free and limited-time nature of the two Google Assistant cameos makes them seem like a short-term gimmick, but there’s a lot of untapped potential in the celebrity voice assistant concept. Amazon has been more enthusiastic about the idea so far. Amazon expanded its Alexa cast list in July with Shaquille O’Neal and Melissa McCarthy. The basketball star and actress lent synthesized versions of their voices to Alexa a year and a half after To activate the celebrity personalities, users just have to ask Alexa to introduce them to their chosen star and pay $5, the same price Samuel L. Jackson debuted as an option. All of the famous voices now come with their own wake words so users can pick who to talk to at that moment. The voices cost $5, which may also be why there’s no indication Alexa will pull them from its skill store any time soon.