Alexa gains a little personality

Amazon Alexa

Alexa will soon stop sounding quite so much like a robot – at least when she says certain words. Amazon has announced that their AI assistant now supports SSML Speechcons in Alexa skills. In layman’s terms, that means that skill developers can have Alexa speak more naturally and expressively while saying certain words.

Which words? Well, any of the ones on this list of more than 100 Speechcons. That link includes audio recordings of Alexa saying each of the Speechcon words and phrases. The list includes exclamations like “abracadabra” and “zoinks,” plus colloquial phrases like “read ’em and weep” and “whoops-a-daisy.”

The Speechcons are part of Speech Synthesis Markup Language, or SSML. SSML is a standardized markup language that, as the name suggests, marks how speech should be interpreted.

This Speechcon support is available to developers of Alexa skills. Unlike Alexa’s built in “task” abilities, “skills” are developed by third-party developers and must be enabled manually through the Alexa app or via an Alexa device. That means that the impact of these changes won’t be felt right away, but will be seen with the release of each new skill that takes advantage of Alexa’s new abilities.

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