Amazon Is Muting Alexa's Celebrity Voices Like Samuel L. Jackson, Refunds Not Automatic
Amazon is removing three celebrity voices from its Alexa library in the coming months. The voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Melissa McCarthy, and Shaquille O'neal are already no longer available for purchase, and will soon cease to exist on devices.
When first launched in 2019, users could purchase Samuel L. Jackson's voice for an Alexa-supported device for just $0.99. Anyone who purchased Jackson's voice could prompt an Alexa-enabled device by saying, "Hey Samuel." They could also get weather updates and even get roasted by the star if they chose to. In 2021, the company added McCarthy's and O'neal's voices as well, and had upped the price to $4.99.
An Amazon spokesperson, Eric Sveum, told The Verge in a statement, "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 customer service for a refund."
Even though Jackson's page indicates users can only use the skill until April of 2023, Sveum says they will have until June 7th to continue getting roasted by the often foul mouthed Jackson. Those using McCarthy's and Oneal's voices will have until September 30, 2023.
Amazon's Alexa, first introduced in 2014, has been struggling in recent years. It was expected to lose around $10 billion last year, according to some reports. The news came shortly after the company had cut nearly 10,000 jobs, growing to an estimated 18,000 layoffs by the start of this year. A former employee of Amazon told the news outlet, "Alexa is a colossal failure of imagination. It was a wasted opportunity."
While the company may be losing money with Alexa, it is not looking at muting the voice assistant altogether. Reports have suggested that Amazon plans on bringing Alexa into the age of AI by taking advantage of a large language model (LLM) like ChatGPT or Bard, which the company calls LLM Alexa Teacher Model. An example of how an AI Alexa could be used is by completely making up a bedtime story for a young child and reading it to them.
It is not clear exactly why Amazon has chosen to cut the celebrity voices from Alexa's repertoire, but fans of the voice assistant can rest easy knowing the company is looking at giving it new life with AI in the future. Anyone wanting to get a refund for a celebrity voice purchase needs to make sure to contact customer service.