Oct 1, 2019

Voice assistants turn to Hollywood for some celebrity appeal

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Tech companies looking to make additional dollars from their voice assistant products are luring celebrity talent to help them out.

Driving the news: Amazon announced last week that it will be introducing Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson as its first celebrity voice for its Alexa voice assistant later this year. The announcement follows similar moves by Google and other tech giants.

Details: Users can access Jackson's voice for $.99 during the introductory period, but in the future will need to shell out $4.99 to hear Jackson recite news headlines or tell jokes.

  • They can also choose whether they would like Jackson to use explicit language or not.

The big picture: Amazon isn't the only tech company to lean into the Hollywood voice appeal.

  • Google earlier this year introduced John Legend as its first celebrity voice for its voice assistant product, Google Assistant.
  • Waze, the Google-owned navigation app, has also experimented with celebrity voice-overs for directions. In May, it introduced hip-hop star DJ Khaled as a new voice option for the app in order to promote his new album.
  • Waze has featured other celebrity voices for navigation in the past, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kevin Hart, T-Pain, and Shaq, per Mashable.

Meditation apps have also leaned into the celebrity voice craze.

  • Calm, an app designed to help users relax and sleep, said in June that it would be investing more in having celebrity voices like Matthew McConaughey tell stories for the app.

Be smart: Voice assistant technologies have long looked to diversify in order to appeal to a wider range of people.

  • Apple's voice assistant Siri can be switched to speak in multiple different or settings to resemble a male or female voice.
  • Amazon introduced 8 different voices for developers to use when building "skills" or software tasks for Alexa.
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