Alexa’s got some company. I met Disney’s new voice assistant at CES this week, and it’s pretty cute. Called “Disney’s Magical Companion,” the disembodied voice is born from fairy dust and lives inside Amazon’s Echo smart speakers and displays. Its purpose is to call up various characters — including Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars faves — to help you out with common voice assistant chores (timers, alarms, weather), as well as entertain with stories, games, and other sprinkles of Disney magic.
You conjure the assistant with the phrase “Hey Disney!” — here’s a quick demo I did at CES this week:
One neat thing about the integration is you never know which character will answer your query — it could be Dory from Finding Nemo or Olaf from Frozen one moment, then Mater from Cars or Animal from The Muppets the next.
First announced in 2021, “Hey Disney!” was built using the Alexa Custom Assistant voice AI foundation, which allows third parties to create custom voice assistants that can coexist with Amazon’s Alexa assistant in Echo speakers. It’s similar to the celebrity voices you can download from the likes of Samuel Jackson, but with more customized games and integrations.
Currently, “Hey Disney!” is in limited hotel rooms at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort as part of a phased rollout across Disney’s hotels, where it also helps as a sort of virtual concierge. But the Magical Companion is also coming to your home in 2023, through the Alexa Skills store. No pricing has been announced, but it will be included free with an Amazon Kids Plus subscription.