Amazon Ends Sale of Celebrity Alexa Voices, Will Issue Refunds
In a disappointing turn of events for fans of the Alexa voice assistant, Amazon has decided to discontinue its celebrity voice options, which allowed users to integrate voices of famous personalities into their Alexa-enabled devices. This means that voices such as Shaquille O’Neal, Melissa McCarthy, and even the beloved Samuel L. Jackson will no longer be available for purchase or function on Alexa devices. The Verge first reported on this development.
For users who had previously purchased these distinct voice options, the news gets worse, as the voices will no longer work, rendering their investment useless. While the voice options were initially priced at $1 and later increased to $5, the absence of refunds can be disappointing for consumers. However, Amazon has stated that it will process refunds upon request, according to reports.
A spokesperson for Amazon explained, “After three years, we’re winding down celebrity voices. Customers will be able to continue using these voices for a limited time and can contact our customer service team for a refund.”
The official announcement page for the feature indicates that Samuel L. Jackson’s voice will cease functioning next week, while Melissa McCarthy and Shaq’s voices will continue to be functional until sometime in September.
For those unfamiliar with the feature, the celebrity voices were add-ons for Alexa, transforming the device’s usual voice into that of a famous personality. However, their capabilities were limited compared to the full range of features offered by Alexa. The celebrity voices did not integrate with many skills or offer reminders but were able to tell jokes, answer questions, and perform basic voice-assisted tasks. The feature initially launched in 2019 with Samuel L. Jackson’s voice and later expanded to include Shaq and Melissa McCarthy.
The decision to discontinue the celebrity voice feature may be attributed to various factors. Alexa’s popularity has slightly waned, and Amazon’s hardware division recently laid off several employees involved in the design and manufacturing of Echo speakers. Additionally, the limited feature set of the celebrity voices may not have garnered sufficient user adoption to offset the licensing costs. Finally, reports suggest that Amazon is developing its own large language model (LLM), similar to ChatGPT, to transform Alexa, which may no longer align with the integration of celebrity voices.
While the departure of celebrity voices may disappoint some users, Amazon’s decision may indicate a shift in its vision for the future of Alexa and its voice assistant capabilities. As the company continues to innovate and evolve its AI technology, users can expect new features and enhancements to enhance their overall Alexa experience.