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Amazon Alexa could soon talk in fluent Hindi, other Indian languages

BusinessToday.In     June 7, 2019

If you believe that giving commands to Alexa in your vernacular language would make your life much easier, then you are not alone. The team at Amazon thinks so too and is already working to introduce more regional language capabilities in Alexa. In India, smart speakers are gaining popularity but Alexa still has a long way to go, especially when it is pitted against Google Assistant, as it can only understand bits of Hindi voice commands, apart from English.

Rohit Prasad, Vice President and Head Scientist for Alexa said that they are working on infusing regional language capabilities in Alexa for the Indian market, as mentioned in a report in Livemint.

"For us, it is a contextual, cultural as well as content-related challenge as the question is not that Alexa just needs to understand Hindi. This part we can do relatively easily but Alexa needs to be Indian when it speaks in Hindi as there are several dialects and accents out there which Alexa has to understand and react accordingly," said Prasad to news agency IANS on the sidelines of its flagship event, re:Mars in Las Vegas.

Prasad believes that something as insignificant as a joke which might seem funny to American citizens might be inappropriate in Indian languages. He added that these challenges are not language dependent but more culture dependent. Prasad mentioned that they believe in introducing wholesome experiences and not something half-baked and are working to solve such issues in the Indian context.  

To this end, Amazon had introduced Cleo skill enabling customers in India help Alexa learn Hindi and other local languages. Apart from Hindi, users can respond to Alexa's English statements in Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Kannada, Bengali, Gujarati and more.

"We want Alexa to be everywhere. The whole idea is to make it more natural and conversational with humans with new Machine Learning (ML) capabilities that we are applying now," said Prasad.

Alexa is available in 80 countries and speaks more than 14 language variants.

As per the International Data Corporation (IDC), Amazon Echo is way ahead of its rival Google Home in the smart speakers market. Echo had a market share of 59 per cent while Home had 39 per cent in 2018.

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