In December of last year, Amazon introduced the ability to add Samuel L. Jackson’s voice to its devices. The feature cost 99 cents and was designed as an entertainment experience. It lacked the full features of Alexa, but could play music, tell stories about Jackson’s career, and more. On the other hand, the Samuel L Jackson voice skill couldn’t help with shopping, setting up lists and reminders, or activating skills. You could, however, turn an explicit language filter on or off, if you wanted more Nick Fury, less Nelville Flynn.
Unfortunately, the process was not as seamless as it could have been. Users had to ask Alexa to ask Samuel to say something. It took too long to achieve results, which made the feature mostly useless.
Today, Alexa announced a new wake word for Alexa, the first one ever: “Hey Samuel.” Saying this will automatically trigger Samuel L. Jackson’s voice to respond to your question. There is no word on whether the new wake word expands on the capabilities of the original voice or not, however.
While it may not seem like much, adding a new wake word is an impressive feat. Unlike most of the questions and queries posed to Alexa, wake words are processed on the device. Due to the Echo’s limited CPU and onboard memory, introducing a new wake word was not an easy task.
The new feature derives from Amazon’s Voice Interoperability Initiative, a push to give customers more options and enable different voice agents and wake words to exist on the same devices. The initiative aims to “develop voice services that work seamlessly with others while protecting the privacy and security of customers.”
Dozens of companies are taking part in the initiative, including Facebook, Intel, Sony, and many others. As smart assistants become a more integral part of day-to-day life, the Voice Interoperability Initiative will work to make them safer and more functional for everyday use.
Now that Amazon has added one new wake word, it may open the path for other celebrity voices on your Alexa, as well as other features. Who wouldn’t want the ability to create a custom wake word?