Business

Amazon’s Alexa now speaks Hindi, Hinglish

Linguistic expert: Alexa should be a native citizen, says Amazon’s Rohit Prasad.

Linguistic expert: Alexa should be a native citizen, says Amazon’s Rohit Prasad.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

More local languages may be added

Amazon on Wednesday announced support for Hindi and Hinglish for its voice assistant Alexa.

With this update, users in India will be able to interact with Alexa using Hindi (and Hinglish) as opposed to only English at present.

Till now, Alexa, which was launched in India in 2017, was able to understand and pronounce names of popular places, names and songs in regional languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi and Punjabi, but supported commands only in English.

“Our goal is that Alexa should be a native citizen. With this update, Alexa can now understand customers speaking to her completely in Hindi or Hinglish, in multiple contexts and varied regional accents and dialects,” said Rohit Prasad, vice president and head scientist, Alexa AI, Amazon.

Linguistic diversity

Stating that India had uniquely challenged the firm’s AI teams with its cultural and linguistic diversity, Mr. Prasad added that many Indian users contributed to Hindi development through the Cleo skill on Alexa. He also indicated that more regional languages could be added to Alexa in the future.

“In India, pronunciation, diction and accents in Hindi are different across the country even if the language being spoken is the same... With today’s launch, Alexa becomes more local. Alexa will not only understand and respond in Hindi or Hinglish but is also armed with knowledge about topics that interests users in the country,” said Puneesh Kumar, country manager, Alexa Experience and Devices, Amazon India, said.

Amazon said about 500 skills — which is the term for various things that Alexa can do such as playing music, bringing up news, stories or giving weather forecasts — are available in Hindi and more will be added.

Mr. Prasad said overall, there were over 90,000 Alexa skills of which about 30,000 were India-specific.

Alexa, which competes with digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and the Google Assistant, powers the Amazon Echo range of home-assistance devices besides products from brands such as Bose, MyBox, and Syska.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 8:16:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/amazons-alexa-now-speaks-hindi-hinglish/article29452275.ece

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