Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is stepping in front of the camera for the retailer’s Super Bowl 2018 advert, and as you might expect its all about Alexa. The spot has been previewed on YouTube ahead of the big game, setting up what sounds like a reveal around the virtual assistant’s voice.
Indeed, the teaser commercial released today is more about what it sounds like when Alexa is absent than when she’s chatty. After an Echo Dot goes quiet, Alexa coughing midway through a weather report and then petering out, the suddenly silenced assistant apparently becomes a nationwide problem.
According to Bezos’ assistants, though, there are “replacements” waiting in the wings ready to step in. Exactly what those replacements might be is presumably the big news Amazon is saving for February 4th, 2018. Of course, that hasn’t stopped some speculation.
The most likely possibility is that Amazon is planning to add custom voice support to Alexa. On the one hand, that might be a second voice option for those who want something different from the current voice agent. Apple’s Siri, after all, has a variety of voices, both male and female, depending on accent and location. So far, Amazon – and, for that matter, the Google Assistant – has offered just one.
Alternatively, Amazon could be using a guest voice as a promotion. By picking a celebrity voice, it could highlight Alexa’s functionality and the Amazon Echo in general. That might only last for a limited period of time, but it might be sufficient to re-engage people who perhaps received an Echo Dot or Echo over the holidays, but who have fallen out of the habit of using it.
More unlikely – but pleasingly retro, however – Amazon could even be taking a leaf out of the old standalone satellite navigation devices, which once offered the ability to download and install custom voices. At the time, being able to take instructions from impersonations of celebrities or “funny” personalities seemed fairly magical; now, as Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and the Google Assistant spread, the idea of a virtual person responding to us is a little less groundbreaking.
Of course, the audio library involved in setting up a whole new assistant voice is fairly huge, not to mention time-consuming. Amazon seems unlikely to do it on a whim, certainly. We’ll likely find out more over the next couple of weeks, in the run up to the Super Bowl 2018.