It’s finger lickin’ good Colonel: Alexa offers ‘brand voice’

kfcAmazon is offering brand owners the chance to customise their own “text-to-speech” voice for its virtual AI assistant Alexa, with fast-food giant KFC among the first companies to sign up to the programme.

Dubbed “Brand Voice”, the technology is part of a new capability within Amazon Polly, a department of Amazon Web Services that houses linguists and AI research scientists who have built neural text-to-speech technology that can match the speaking styles of a human.

KFC Canada is one of the first to work with the company on the feature, developing a voice for Colonel Sanders that replies to customers instead of the default Alexa voice.

It uses deep learning models that can interpret intonation patterns from natural speech data and reproduce the acquired voice in a similar style or tone.

KFC Canada marketing director Jason Cassidy said: “The Colonel was passionate about his fried chicken and this new skill makes reordering your favourite KFC menu items easier than ever but in a fun and memorable way.”

The National Bank Australia has also been an early adopter. NAB general manager of digital Laurent De Segur said the system will help to improve the experience customers have when they contact its call centres.

He added: “For that reason, it was also important that the voice we created using Amazon Polly Brand Voice felt both uniquely NAB and consistent with our position and what our customers expect when they call us.”

AWS launched a similar feature in September that allows users to set their Alexa device’s voice to that of Samuel L Jackson, which was built using audio recordings of the actor’s voice that were turned into natural-sounding responses.

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