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Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan is Amazon’s new voice Alexa

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By Saritha Rai

Amazon.com Inc. listed Bollywood mega star Amitabh Bachchan for his Alexa voice assistant, stealing a march on rivals Siri and Alphabet Inc. from Apple Inc. Google Assistant as a country of 1.3 billion people adapts to voice-activated internet services.

The baritone who has enchanted the Indian film industry for more than five decades, will soon provide a unique vocal experience to the many Indian customers who use Alexa, Amazon announced Monday on his Indian blog. Users will be able to access Mr. Bachchan’s iconic voice on Alexa by purchasing the Amitabh Bachchan voice experience, according to the blog.

Bachchan, 77, is often described as India’s answer to Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro combined. His star power and deep voice have featured in hundreds of commercials selling everything from PepsiCo Inc. colas to Cadbury Ltd. chocolates. and even a polio vaccination campaign supported by UNICEF.

Bachchans’ instantly recognizable voice added to her star status in blockbuster Bollywood movies, a podcast and the Indian version of the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire ?. On Monday, the actor posted on Instagram, ek nayi sochek nayi drishtiek nayi disha, in Hindi for what for him was a new thought, a new vision, a new direction.

Amazon first used a celebrity voice when Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson made his Alexa debut. He has since added professional voice actors who recite Shakespeare, Mark Twain, proverbs and fables. Last year, his rival Google Assistant added the voice of American singer John Legend. Google’s dominant voice assistant has yet to launch a celebrity voice in India.

As with Jackson, Amazon will apply neural speech technology to make Alexa sound exactly like Bachchan, no matter what question he answers without needing to record every word of his voice in the studio. Users can purchase Bachchan’s voice as a skill for providing weather updates, reciting poetry, and giving advice.

India, with over half a billion smartphones and some of the cheapest data rates in the world, is rapidly adopting voice services as people access the internet by voice rather than typing. The voice and speech recognition market is growing rapidly in India and is expected to jump more than 40% this year to reach $ 58.4 million, according to a report from the Dentsu Aegis Networks India unit.

Bachchan’s arrival on Alexa next year is going to delight one particular Amazon employee: Amit Agarwal, director of Amazon India and former executive assistant to Jeff Bezos. Agarwal, who is an avid Bachchan fan, commonly casts lines from Bachchan blockbusters and to this day wears the Bachchan hairstyle of decades ago.



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