Amazon rolls out India’s first celebrity voice on Alexa with Amitabh Bachchan – TechCrunch

Amazon launched India’s first celebrity voice feature on Alexa with the country’s biggest movie star, Amitabh Bachchan, as the company seeks to attract more users to the world’s second most populous country.

The company, which introduced Samuel Jackson’s voice on Alexa in the US in 2019, said users in India could add the voice of the Bollywood legend to their Echo devices or the at an introductory price of 149 Indian rupees ($ 2) Can add Amazon shopping app first year. (From the second year the annual price increases to $ 4.)

The 78-year-old actor provides Amazon with stories from his life, a selection of his father’s poems, tongue twisters and motivational quotes. Amazon customers can also ask Alexa to play music, set alarms, get weather updates, and get responses in signature Bachchan style.

And the company said it also uses neural language technology to make Alexa sound like Bachchan, even if there’s no direct pre-recording. (Amit ji, remind me to ask you about Amazon’s antitrust situation in India later today.)

Photo credit: Amazon

“Working with Amazon to introduce my voice on Alexa was a new experience combining the magic of language technology and artistic creativity. I am delighted that my well-wishers can now interact with me through this new medium and look forward to hearing how they feel about it, ”said Bachchan in a statement.

A household name, Bachchan became a top star in Bollywood in the 1970s, playing characters who fought against corruption and social injustice. He’s also done tons of ads for brands and initiatives, from hair oil, cookies, cold drinks, jewelry, government tourism, banks to a UNICEF-backed polio vaccination campaign.

The company announced its collaboration with the Bollywood legend last year. But the pandemic forced Amazon’s engineering teams to work remotely for this project. There were also other complications. Worldwide users can trigger Alexa with a one-word alarm. Alexa, do that for example. But in the case of Bachchan, Amazon Alexa introduced a two-word wake-up system. “Amit ji.” (Where ‘ji’ is a Hindi word used to show respect.)

“At Amazon & Alexa, we consistently develop innovations on behalf of our customers and building the Amitabh Bachchan voice experience with one of the most famous voices in India was a matter close to our hearts. Developing the world’s first bilingual celebrity voice required us to invent and reinvent almost every element of linguistics – wake word, speech recognition, neural text-to-speech and more, ”said Puneesh Kumar, Country Leader for Alexa, Amazon India. in a statement.

“Although we are proud of the many innovations and enthusiasts in this field that are being used for the first time in India, it is still day 1 and we will continue to enrich this experience as science continues to develop.”

India is a major overseas market for Amazon, having raised over $ 6.5 billion and increasingly investing in startups. This isn’t the first time the company has signed Bachchan for any of its businesses. The company acquired Bachchan’s film rights “Gulabo Sitabo” for worldwide streaming on Prime Video last year.

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