Amazon’s voice-controlled assistant should soon sound more natural to Brits. The company has upgraded the UK version of Alexa with “Speechcons,” an extensive list of words and phrases that can be delivered in a more lively, expressive manner. These include “whoops a daisy,” “bob’s your uncle” and “oh my giddy aunt,” as well as “crikey,” “blimey” and “geronimo!” Speechcons are part of the Alexa development platform, meaning anyone can draw on them for third-party “skills.” As long as it’s wrapped in an “interjection” tag, Alexa will check the word against its Speechcon bank and, if it’s listed, enunciate with a little extra oomph.
The rollout is part of a broader push to keep Alexa at the forefront of virtual assistants. Alongside Speechcons, Amazon is working on SSML, a form of markup for Alexa-based responses. These allow developers to customise how specific words and phrases are delivered by Alexa. The latest, announced last week, include whispers, added emphasis, and subtle changes in volume, pitch and tone. If they’re widely adopted, Alexa should become a more vibrant, personable assistant — whether you’re using the stock skills made by Amazon, or those created by third-party developers.