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Alexa, Are You Disappointed in Me? Amazon’s Voice Gets More Range

Matt Day

(Bloomberg) -- Amazon.com Inc. is trying to break Alexa away from its robotic monotone, giving developers tools to make the software sound excited or disappointed.

The company rolled out that capability Tuesday in an update to its market-leading home voice assistant, offering a range of options that take Alexa from quite excited to downright morose. The company said the tool may be useful in congratulating users on trivia wins, or consoling them on a sports team’s loss.

The default Alexa voice generated by Amazon’s text-to-speech software has been a sore spot for some software developers who build skills, as Amazon calls Alexa applications, but had hoped for it to be more engaging and customizable. Amazon has worked to improve upon its digital assistant’s monotone, and says customer satisfaction with the experience improved in tests of Alexa’s new range.

The digital assistant’s emotional intelligence extends to its listening ability, too. Earlier this year, Amazon developed a way for Alexa to detect when users were frustrated with a botched response to a music-related command, for example, that relies on measuring a speaker’s tone and word choice. The company has also contemplated putting emotion-detecting functionality into wearable devices.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matt Day in Seattle at mday63@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Pollack

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