Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa will now be able to speak in Hindi, the company announced in an event in Delhi today. The company first launched its voice assistant in India in October 2017 alongside its Echo devices. The assistant already understood some Hinglish, but with the addition of Hindi language support it becomes somewhat more versatile for Indian users.
“When your speech is mixed, (understanding) that required some new science. So, our text-to-speech (TTS) models now use a bilingual model," said Prem Natarajan, Vice-President, Alexa AI & Head - Natural Understanding at Alexa, Amazon India. Natarajan was speaking about colloquial speech where words from Hindi and English are often mixed.
Further, the company says that the addition of Hindi won’t affect its partners’ skills on the platform. “We do the heavy lifting of understanding what the customer said and putting context to it. We pass that onto the partner generate an intent," said Dilip R.S, Country Manager, India Alexa Skills, Amazon India, Amazon.
So, if a user says "Ride book karo", the assistant tells the concerned on-demand cab service to book a cab instead of having them understand the Hindi command. However, Amazon will allow partners to leverage its TTS model to make their responses to user commands more natural.
Furthermore, Hindi support will be available on all Alexa-enabled devices, the company confirmed. But other companies who build devices with Alexa inside will have to add the Hindi functionality specifically, meaning that they will have to send an over the air (OTA) update to their existing customers to add Hindi support.
Much like on Google’s language settings, customers will have to toggle Alexa’s language setting to Hindi in order to speak to the assistant in that language.