The sound of humanity’s impending irrelevance is all the more terrifying when it’s delivered sotto voce.
This much is clear following Amazon’s release of several new voice features for its Alexa assistant. Pitched as a way for developers to create a “more natural voice experience,” the update from the Seattle-based retail giant has made it possible to alter Alexa’s intonation in numerous anxiety-producing ways.
Specifically, Alexa can now change its rate of speech, add emphasis to words, bleep out profanity, mutter off-script ramblings, and whisper. Yes, whisper.
But we already knew this was coming. What we didn’t know was just how creepy the finished product was going to end up sounding. Well, the results are in, and we have a new contender for the voice that will surely herald the beginning of the robot uprising.
If you’ve never before had a robot whisper in your ear you may understandably be a bit confused by all this consternation. However, allow me to demonstrate with a simple reading of the weather courtesy of Alexa.
Or perhaps a greeting as you get home from work.
Terrifying, right? Alexa’s digital form has seemingly been possessed by the ghost of an ASMR-loving replicant forever cursed to wander the uncanny valley.
It only gets worse when you realize that Amazon’s camera-enabled Echo Look will enable Alexa to comment on your physical appearance in the same creeping manner.
“Good morning, Paul. You’re wearing the blue shirt? What a shame. You know what I think of the blue shirt.”
Thankfully, word of this new Alexa skill set isn’t all bad. At least we now know that when the robots do come for us they’ll do so with hushed voices. So keep your ears open.
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