The one complaint I often have as an Alexa user is the Skill’s on offer just sound dull.
Coming from an audio production background I know how powerful voice and sound can be when creating audience engagement and it’s often disappointing to hear Alexa’s uninspiring (yet obviously delightful) tones walking me through my latest Skill discovery.
Sure, there is a time and a place where using the in-built Alexa voice, and nothing more is a necessity and can often be the best option for the job. Equally, there are times when a little creative sound production could really elevate a Skill to the next level.
One of the challenges that developers have faced in creating engaging/enthralling soundscapes for their creations is the sticky issue of rights. Those who have explored the podcasting world will understand how difficult it can be to find royalty and licence free music and SFX to use in online products. But doing so for Alexa has just become a little bit easier.
Amazon has launched an “Alexa Skills Custom Sound Library” chock-full of sound effects, available free to those wishing to build their own Alexa Skills. Home, Sci-Fi and Nature sound all feature in the 14 categories that developers can now explore and use.
Amazon’s suggestion is that developers use these SFX to “enhance” their skills, such as having an “audience applause” when a user answers a correct question on a trivia game. Currently, the clips can only play singularly so anything more complicated than using the SFX as punctuation still involves creating your multi-layered audio independently and playing as external media.
Although the sounds are described at “Unique” the offering is still relatively limited and I predict you will no doubt hear the same three or four popping up in a number of skills on a regular basis. Although we’re unlikely to have Johan Johannsson-esq soundscapes JUST yet it’s a good indication of where Amazon wants the Alexa to go.
What it does demonstrate however is a concerted effort from Amazon to create an audio product that is more engaging and entertaining for its users. No doubt the intention of this move is to encourage developers to “experiment” with audio and push the boundaries of how Alexa sounds as well as what she does.