Amazon to help businesses develop custom voices for Alexa

Colonel Sanders will now reply to KFC customers instead of the default Alexa voice

Businesses will be able to customise their own text-to-speech voice for Alexa, Amazon has announced.

KFC is one of the first to work with the company on the feature, developing a voice for Colonel Sanders that replies to customers instead of the default Alexa voice.

This is part of a new capability within Amazon Polly called 'Brand Voice'. Polly is a department of AWS that comprises linguists and AI research scientists who build neural text-to-speech (NTTS) technology that can match the speaking styles of a person.

It uses deep learning models that can interpret intonation patterns from natural speech data and reproduce the acquired voice in a similar style or tone. The service has already been used by National Bank Australia, as well as KFC.

"The Colonel was passionate about his fried chicken and this new skill makes re-ordering your favourite KFC menu items easier than ever but in a fun and memorable way," said Jason Cassidy, marketing director for KFC Canada.

AWS debuted a similar feature in September that allows users to set their Alexa device's voice to that of Samual L Jackson. The American actor didn't have to record hours of dialogue, though, as the NTTS models are able to translate audio recordings of his voice into natural-sounding responses.

For a more serious business perspective, Laurent De Segur, the general manager of digital at National Australia Bank, said that it would help improve the experience customers have when they contact its call centres.

"For that reason, it was also important that the voice we created using Amazon Polly Brand Voice felt both uniquely NAB and consistent with our position and what our customers expect when they call us," he said.

Alexa has become a popular household feature via Amazon's Echo smart speaker and the tech giant has also opened the service to businesses, with Alexa for Business' and a number of partnerships with large organisations, such as the NHS.

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