Alexa Celebrity Voices No More
Alexa will no longer speak with the voice of Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy, or Shaquille O’Neal. Amazon is removing the celebrity voices from the Alexa skill library, and they are no longer available for purchase.
Samuel L. Jackson debuted in 2019 as a digitally generated voice for Alexa, later adding his own “Hey Samuel” wake word and offering either a PG or R-rated format with swearing. Amazon expanded its Alexa cast list in 2020 with Shaquille O’Neal and Melissa McCarthy. The $5 skills enable the celebrity voices to handle several tasks for Alexa, though the default voice returns if the request is beyond that scope. The voices are able to answer questions about the weather, stream music, or tell jokes and stories. Each has a bunch of pre-recorded dialogue to go with the artificially generated words. Creating the artificial voices took about 60 hours of recording. Amazon’s neural text-to-speech (NTTS) technology then had enough to teach Alexa how to sound like the three celebrities.
Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan joined the celebrity list for Indian users in the fall of 2020, speaking in both Hindi and English. His skill is also unavailable to buy now but will be usable for a year after the initial purchase, according to the skill page. Jackson will be available to those who purchased the skill until June 7, while McCarthy’s and O’Neal’s voices will leave on Sept. 30. Amazon will provide refunds through customer service to those who want one. Amazon hasn’t listed a reason for the removal. Still, reports of significant losses in revenue around the voice assistant and the thousands of layoffs by Amazon this year may be a reason.