Whose Voice is Alexa, Amazon’s Assistant?
May 13, 2021
The virtual assistant Alexa Amazon has a female voice that, as it works with Siri or Google, is part of the daily lives of millions of users around the world. But who is it? Behind that warm and familiar tone, there is a human that was recorded to later be analyzed and reproduced algorithmically.
While the company had never revealed his identity, journalist and writer Brad Stone , author of the book published in 2013 ” The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” ( “The Shop around: Jeff Bezos and the era of Amazon ”), among others, has indicated that it found who is behind Alexa. It is about Nina Rolle, an announcer who lives in Boulder, Colorado, United States.
This claim is found in Stone’s next book, one more about the tech giant, to be called “Amazon Unbound,” and an excerpt has been published by technology magazine Wired . Neither Amazon nor Rolle has confirmed or denied Stone’s information. According to the journalist, it has been based on conversations with the community of professional announcers who work with the technology industry.
According to the journalist who made the finding, this has been the process of selecting the voice of Alexa: Then-Amazon executive Greg Hart and his colleagues spent months reviewing the recordings of various candidates that GM Voices, a leading company in the production of voices for apps, GPS and other services, provided them.
They presented the top picks to Amazon CEO Bezos. The company’s team ranked the best, requested additional samples, and finally made the decision. Amazon has never revealed the name of the voice artist behind Alexa.
“I discovered her identity after probing the professional voice-over community: Boulder, Colorado-based singer and voice actress Nina Rolle. Her professional website contains links to old radio advertisements for products like Mott’s apple juice and the Volkswagen Passat, and the warm timbre of Alexa’s voice is unmistakable . Rolle said she was not allowed to speak to me when I called her on the phone in February 2021. When I asked Amazon to speak to her, they refused, ”the journalist wrote.
Starting this year, the default female voice of Apple’s assistant is not the only option, since with the update of the iOS 14.5 operating system, it will be possible to change it to a male voice, in a gesture in favor of “diversity and inclusion,” according to the company.
The original host behind Siri, Susan Bennett revealed the assistant’s identity in 2013 (after seeing an article from The Verge that told about the process behind creating synthesized voices). “I was conservative about it for a long time, then the Verge video came out … And it seems like everyone was asking to find out who the real voice behind Siri is, so I thought, well, you know, what the heck? This is the moment, “he told CNN.
Creating a synthetic voice begins with actual audio samples, but then that data is extensively quantized and remastered. But if you listen, for example, to the demos of the Amazon announcer on her site, it is possible to detect her true voice and understand how the voices change and are synthesized, turning them into something like robots.
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