It is difficult to know whether Alexa is being leading edge or playing a weird game of ‘catch up’. The latest news is that Alexa will soon have a ‘voice’ for each of the major brands that you can connect with through the device.
According to Business Insider, this advance could create a very significant revenue opportunity. More people use Alexa (and presumably other smart speaker devices) for shopping than any other application and adding a voice, essentially a personality, to the interaction with your input device will enhance the customer experience and therefore the opportunities to upsell and listen to recommendations from a voice you love and respect.
And that does make some sort of sense.
Yet it could be irritating too. Alexa will have to be very sure of the voices it uses to become ‘brand personalities’. And, we are guessing that Hollywood names do not come cheap.
Some will inevitably say that this smacks of desperation from Amazon.
Alexa ‘skills’ are the apps developed by third parties and, according to Radio Free Mobile, for example, skills got out of hand and instead of creating a well orchestrated experience, was always in danger of becoming untangled and disorganised. In fact, they are ‘too stupid for mass adoption’.
In which case, this development of adding voices to brands is a high-profile attempt to make Alexa look cool when, actually, it isn’t.
Having had an Alexa in the house since Christmas, it is safe to say that the only real application it has been put to is playing ‘old man’s music’ – simply because keeping up with the Sonos upgrades and having to wave your phone round the room every time you move the thing is becoming thoroughly irritating (in a rather satisfying ‘grumpy old man’ kind of way’).
While this may seem tangential to the very serious decisions and events that are taking place at GSMA HQ and elsewhere, it does pose the question:
If smart speakers are really going to take over from the keyboard as the next sensible input device, on our way to neuralink heaven, Alexa is going to have to get a lot better, fast, if it is to avoid being a laughing stock – which presumably will be in Jim Carey’s voice.