Amazon has made the decision to discontinue the utilization of celebrity voices for its virtual assistant, Alexa. The distinctive voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Melissa McCarthy will no longer be compatible with Alexa-enabled devices and will cease to be available for purchase through Amazon.
Initially offered at a price of $0.99, which later increased to $4.99, the inclusion of these celebrity voices had initially excited many customers. However, disappointment ensued when they discovered that the service did not provide unlimited access.
By employing the “Hey [celebrity name]” command, users could engage with their Alexa devices in the captivating voices of Jackson, Shaq, or McCarthy, interacting with queries, enjoying humor, or even indulging in narrations. Unfortunately, the functionality of Jackson’s voice will soon cease to operate on consumers’ devices, marking the end of this delightful experience for many.
In a statement provided to The Verge, Eric Sveum, a spokesperson for Amazon, expressed the company’s position:
“After three years, we’re winding down celebrity voices. Customers will be able to continue using these voices for a limited time, and can contact our customer service team for a refund.”
On Jackson’s page, a notice is prominently displayed indicating that his Alexa voice is no longer obtainable for purchase.
Although the skill will remain functional for customers who have already purchased the experience, the availability of Jackson’s voice will be limited starting from June 7th, according to Eric Sveum’s reassurances to The Verge. Amazon has taken similar measures by providing notices on McCarthy’s and Shaq’s voice pages, stating that their voices will be supported until September 30th of this year.
Originally introduced in 2019, Jackson’s voice utilizes Amazon’s neural text-to-speech technology, offering a unique twist by generating witty and occasionally explicit remarks instead of pre-recorded responses. McCarthy and Shaq’s voices were subsequently introduced in 2021. However, it’s worth noting that all three voices have certain limitations in terms of functionality, as they cannot be utilized for tasks such as creating to-do lists, setting reminders, or showcasing special talents.
Amazon’s decision to discontinue the celebrity voice functionality in Alexa has raised questions and could potentially highlight underlying issues within the Alexa ecosystem.
A November report by The Wall Street Journal revealed that Amazon CEO Andy Jassy had conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the Alexa division, primarily driven by operating losses exceeding $5 million in recent years.
In addition, Dave Limp, Amazon’s hardware director, disclosed to CNBC that a significant portion of the 18,000 announced layoffs earlier in the year affected his division, which oversees the Alexa and Echo products.