Starting on Wednesday (May 16), developers can apply to participate in a preview that allows the use of eight Amazon Polly U.S. English voices for Alexa skills.
“This new capability can help you enrich your skill’s experience, making it more engaging for customers,” Amazon executive BJ Haberkorn wrote in a blog post. “For example, you can give a different voice to each character in adventure stories and games.”
The voices are being provided for free through Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech service that uses advanced deep learning technologies to synthesize speech that sounds like a human voice.
According to VentureBeat, Polly can speak in nearly 50 voices in 24 languages, but only eight voices synthesized to sound more human are available in the developer preview.
“Using Amazon Polly, you can choose a different voice for any utterance by using the Structured Speech Markup Language (SSML) and specifying an Amazon Polly voice using the 'voice name' tag,” states Haberkorn. “It’s as easy as that. You can even use an Amazon Polly voice for every utterance in your skill if you like.”
Prior to Polly’s launch in 2016, developers changed a voice in a skill experience with the use of pre-recorded MP3 files.
This is the latest feature extended to Alexa developers. Earlier this month, Amazon announced the availability of in-skill purchasing that allows developers to make money by selling digital content that enhances an Alexa skill, such as game products, interactive stores and new features.
In addition to in-skill purchases, Amazon said developers can make money via Alexa Developer Rewards. Skills in eligible categories are automatically considered for the program each month, with Amazon notifying developers if their skill qualifies.
And last week, rival Google gave its Assistant six new voices, as well as announced plans for an Assistant voice with singer John Legend, and the debut of Duplex, AI that uses WaveNet speech synthesis to generate a human-sounding voice.