Amazon is making a HUGE change to Alexa’s voice – here’s what it means for your smart


Amazon has revealed a huge change that will make interacting with its smart speakers a lot less fun. 

The tech giant is retiring all three celebrity voices for its smart speakers – Samuel L. Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal and Melissa McCarthy

Amazon offered the superstar voices for $4.99 each as an alternative to Alexa, but these are no longer available for purchase on its website. 

Amazon, which released its fifth generation Echo Dot smart speaker last year, said customers can contact them for a refund. 

The feature was for US users only, although the tech giant does offer alternative voices for its smart assistant in the UK, such as Santa Claus

Amazon, which released its 5th generation Echo Dot smart speaker (pictured) last year, confirmed it is winding down celebrity voices. The fun tool let users receive audio responses from their Echo device in the voice of their chosen celebrity

Amazon, which released its 5th generation Echo Dot smart speaker (pictured) last year, confirmed it is winding down celebrity voices. The fun tool let users receive audio responses from their Echo device in the voice of their chosen celebrity

The news was first reported by the Verge and confirmed to MailOnline in a statement from an Amazon spokesperson.

‘After three years, we’re winding down celebrity voices,’ the spokesperson told MailOnline.

‘Customers will be able to continue using these voices for a limited time, and can contact our customer service team for a refund.’ 

Customers who have purchased the Jackson voice can continue to use it on their speaker until June 7, while the other two voices will last until September 30.

MailOnline has asked Amazon if there’s a cut-off point for receiving a refund – for example, if they have been using the celebrity voice for more than six months already.  

Amazon introduced celebrity voices back in 2019 with the Jackson voice option, which included an explicit mode that sprinkled responses with swear words, much like the actor’s dialogue on famous films like ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Snakes on a Plane’.

The firm later added voices of former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal and actress Melissa McCarthy as additional options. 

Amazon had recorded the voices of three celebrities in sound booths, but rather than just relaying the recordings to users, the tech giant used clever AI technology called neural text-to-speech (NTTS). 

By feeding the AI the celebrity voice recordings, it was able to create synthetic speech, barely discernible from the real thing – although pre-recorded phrases from the chosen celeb get uttered too.  

The tech giant is retiring all three celebrity voices for its smart speakers – actor Samuel L. Jackson, former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal and actress Melissa McCarthy

The tech giant is retiring all three celebrity voices for its smart speakers – actor Samuel L. Jackson, former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal and actress Melissa McCarthy

To use the feature, customers could activate their chosen celebrity voice by saying ‘Hey…’ followed by the name of the celebrity. 

The celebrity voice could set a timer or an alarm, or tell a joke or a story, although they could not do shopping lists, reminders or skills, according to Amazon. 

It’s unclear why Amazon has decided to shut down the celebrity voice feature, although reports suggest its Alexa division is losing money fast.

Alexa has experienced operating losses exceeding $5 million in recent years, according to the Wall Street Journal

Amazon users can still choose from a variety of voice options – including American, Australian, British, Irish, Canadian and Indian voices – by saying ‘Alexa, change your voice’ or going into the Alexa app. 

However, there is currently no option for regional British accents, despite calls for the tech giant to introduce them.

Alexa was the name of the female voice that originally came out of Amazon’s smart speakers, although this has all changed of late.  

In late 2021, Amazon also started rolling out the male version of its smart assistant voice to UK users.

Amazon's smart assistant powers the Echo speakers, including the spherical fourth generation Echo released in autumn 2020 (pictured)

Amazon’s smart assistant powers the Echo speakers, including the spherical fourth generation Echo released in autumn 2020 (pictured) 

There’s a short snippet of the voice here, which has a generic but robotic-sounding English accent.

That year Amazon also added ‘Ziggy’ as one of its ‘wake words’ – words that users can say before a command to make sure the smart assistant is listening. 

The four other wake words are Alexa, Computer, Amazon and Echo. 

But to reflect modern gender diversity, users can choose between either the male or female voice and use any of the wake words to activate them. 

This means users can potentially start a command with the word ‘Ziggy’ and hear the female voice responding, or say ‘Alexa’ and hear the male voice responding. 

Amazon rolls out a male voice for its speakers but insists it’s not called Ziggy (unless you want it to be)

In 2021, Amazon introduced a male voice to its smart speakers, following accusations of sexism. 

A female voice reinforces the idea that women are ‘subservient’, the UN had said, and encourages harmful gender biases.

There’s a short snippet of the voice here, which has a generic but robotic-sounding English accent.  

Amazon also introduced a new ‘wake word’ (words that users can say before a command to make sure the smart assistant is listening). 

This new wake word, Ziggy, offers an alternative to the existing wake words – Alexa, Computer, Amazon and Echo. 

However, the tech giant has insisted that Ziggy is an additional wake word and not the name of the new male voice option.

Users can choose between either the male or female voice and use any of the wake words to activate them, meaning users could potentially start a command with the word ‘Ziggy’ and hear the female voice responding. 

Amazon rolled out ‘Ziggy’ as a fourth wake word for UK users in summer 2022, following an initial rollout for US users the previous year. 

Meanwhile, the masculine voice option was launched in the UK at the end of 2021, a few months after it was introduced for US users. 



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