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Hold on to Your Butts: Samuel L. Jackson’s Voice (and Frustration Detection) Is Coming to Amazon Alexa

September 25, 2019, 8:20 PM UTC

Samuel L. Jackson will be the first celebrity voice of Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant, giving people the opportunity to ask the actor for help—and to receive either a clean or expletive-laden response.

The Snakes on a Plane actor is known for dropping plenty of f-bombs in his movies, making him one of the most memorable and quotable actors in Hollywood. At an event on Wednesday, Amazon announced that it will give Alexa users the choice to buy an explicit or clean version of the actor’s voice for Alexa later this year. Amazon also unveiled a slew of new Alexa-enabled hardware, meaning Jackson’s voice could emanate from a pair of glasses, a ring, or even a convection oven.

As part of the limited time, 99-cent package, Jackson will take on the persona of the trusty Alexa sidekick, waking users up, setting timers, telling them the weather forecast, jokes, and plenty of other functions.

Jackson’s debut as Amazon’s first celebrity voice comes one year after competitor Google deployed singer John Legend’s voice as an option for Google Home users. Amazon was able to mimic Jackson’s voice by using a neural “text-to-speech” engine that utilizes recordings of celebrities to mimic their voices. Jackson is being paid for his likeness.

The Alexa virtual assistant will also soon be able to tell when users are frustrated. Starting next year, when people request music and Alexa senses frustration, the virtual assistant will apologize for mistakes and offer an alternative action, such as playing a different song.

“As customers continue to use Alexa more often, they want her to be more conversational and can get frustrated when Alexa gets something wrong,” Amazon says in a press release. “To help with this, we developed a deep learning model to detect when customers are frustrated, not with the world around them, but with Alexa. And when she recognizes you’re frustrated with her, Alexa can now try to adjust, just like you or I would do.”

Alexa is also becoming more culturally competent. The smart speaker will soon be able seamlessly to switch between certain languages in multilingual households. In the United States, multilingual mode will support English and Spanish. In Canada, Alexa will be able to expertly shift between French and English. In India, the assistant will be able to quickly help with requests in Hindi and English.

The move once again follows in the footsteps of Google, which rolled out a multilingual mode last August for Google Assistant, supporting English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

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