Until such time as Amazon Alexa starts talking back to us in the voice of Nick Fury, we will act as though the disembodied voices we’re hearing inside our always-online homes are meant to be gentle, soothing, and far from superheroic. But a new Alexa feature promises to adapt the iconic growl of Samuel L. Jackson to let you boss your AI assistant around — while it responds in a voice that knows how to sass back.
As part of the long list of upcoming tech goodies that Amazon revealed this week (including an Alexa-enabled ring you can wear anywhere), the online retailer unveiled Jackson as the first of what it pledges will be many celebrities offering up their voices for Alexa to mimic in the future, thanks to a unique deep learning algorithm. We have yet to hear it for ourselves (it's available at Amazon now), but it might just be cooler than having God from Bruce Almighty (aka Morgan Freeman) deliver your driving directions via GPS.
IGN reports that the new tech uses innovative “neural text-to-speech software” to pick up on Jackson’s vocal patterns as a starting point for its AI, which the algorithm then applies and adapts for all the other things Alexa might say — even if Jackson never specifically said them. In other words, Jackson doesn’t have any pre-recorded lines; rather, Alexa’s new AI can simply parrot what it hears in his speech — and then evolve and refine its faithfulness to Jackson’s vocal style as it continues to “learn” more about how he talks, over time.
Best of all, though, is a truly Jackson-worthy perk: the ability to switch on an “explicit voice option for Jackson if you’re so inclined,” according to IGN. That means your in-home ‘bot banter can veer beyond Nick Fury’s gruff but family-friendly Marvel speech, and into furiously angry R-rated territory staked out by iconically sharp-edged Jackson roles in movies like Pulp Fiction and Snakes on a Plane.
Amazon is selling access to the Jackson voice pack for $.99 per account, a reportedly limited-time offer before the cost increases after the end of this year. When next year rolls around, be sure to look for more celebrities who’ve given their permission for Alexa to copy their famous vocal pipes. We’re hoping for a Samuel L. Jackson / Brie Larson two-for-one bundle, so our houseguests can hear us carrying on banal conversations with Nick Fury and Captain Marvel about the weather, the food in our refrigerators, and real-time price breaks on that officially-licensed Thanos plush toy we’ve had our eye on.