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Circuit Breaker

Amazon’s Alexa can now whisper, bleep out swear words, and change its pitch

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Amazon Echo

Amazon is trying to make its Alexa voice assistant sound more humanlike. Up until now, the female-sounding voice maintained an even, monotone cadence whenever speaking, but with Amazon’s new Speech Synthesis Markup Language that the company introduced this week, Alexa can whisper, vary its speaking speed, and bleep out words. Developers can also add pauses, change the pronunciation of a word, spell a word out, add audio snippets, and insert special words and phrases into their skill.

Amazon says this will allow Alexa to provide a “more natural voice experience.” Honestly, I never thought about why Alexa can’t whisper, but I can definitely see how it’ll make its vaguely robotic voice sound more believable and human. Unfortunately, we don’t have a preview of what Alexa will sound like when it whispers or emphasizes a word; we just have the code developers can include. Amazon says it’s hosting a webinar on May 18th on the new code, so maybe we’ll get a better idea then. The language markups are available to developers in the US, UK, and Germany.

Update 5/2, 11:14 AM ET: A reader named Roy has sent us a sample of Alexa whispering. Below is Alexa whispering this post about Alexa whispering. It hurts my ears, and definitely doesn’t make it sound more like a human, but what do you all think?