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Amazon's Alexa just learned to whisper and to bleep your $&@#

Soon, "speechcons" will make your Amazon Echo or Dot sound a little more human and a little less robot.

Jessica Dolcourt Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt's career with CNET began in 2006, and spans reviews, reporting, analysis and commentary for desktop software; mobile software, including the very first Android and iPhone apps and operating systems; and mobile hardware, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of practical advice on expansive topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
The Alexa assistant is getting some new vocal skills.

The Alexa assistant is getting some new vocal skills.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Pretty soon, Amazon's Alexa assistant is going to get some new speaking skills -- like whispering, shouting and speed-talking, as well as bleeping out naughty words.

Other "speechcons" like this already exist for Alexa in the US, but this set of five new tools will give developers more control over Alexa's volume, intonation and emotion.

(It's all part of SSML, or Speech Synthesis Markup Language, a speech standard.)

Here's what you'll start to hear:

  1. Whispers
  2. Expletive beeps
  3. Substitutions (Alexa will swap a word for the one that's written)
  4. Emphasis (this affects Alexa's speech rate and volume)
  5. "Prosody" (controls volume, pitch, and speech rate)

Users in the UK and Germany will also start being able to get in on the fun. Amazon said it's rolled out speechcons to those countries, which will help Alexa pronounce local phrases with more finesse. Ace!