Amazon Adds New Speech Setting to Alexa App to Help Stutterers Complete Commands and Queries


Amazon is adding a new feature to the Alexa app on Tuesday, available on iOS and Android, that forces Alexa to wait longer for someone to finish speaking.

This feature, which is optional, will be useful to those who have a speech impairment. This will make Alexa more useful and, most importantly, more inclusive.

“Alexa is a voice-driven experience, and we’re always looking for ways to improve speech recognition for all speaking styles. Some customers have told us that they just need a little more time before Alexa responds to their requests, ”Shehzad Mevawalla, head of Alexa voice recognition at Amazon, said in a statement. “That’s why we designed this feature to help improve all customers’ interactions with Alexa and ensure they get the most out of their experience. “

Smart assistants like Alexa have huge accessibility benefits, but their voice-driven nature can make them inaccessible and exclusive to those with atypical speech. This is an underrated problem among technical critics and chairside analysts – who are too often myopic focused on pure intelligence – but which is a real sticking point for many in the people community. with disabilities. According to ASHA, more than 3 million Americans stutter, while another 5-10% suffer from some kind of communication disorder. It is important to recognize that people have different needs and tolerances for their technology, and to recognize that speech delays are also handicaps that must be taken into account. Amazon understands this, which is why their continued work in this space is impressive and utterly refreshing. “We recognize that no two people are the same, whether it’s the way they organize their day or the way they ask a question,” said Beatrice Geoffrin, director of Alexa Trust at Amazon. “That’s why we’re committed to creating Alexa experiences that are inclusive, useful and accessible to everyone. “

As for the tech industry at large, Katie Deighton of The Wall Street Journal Earlier this year, Big Tech companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google devoted a considerable amount of additional resources to making their respective virtual assistants more graceful for handling atypical speech patterns. For Apple, users can hold down the side button on an iOS device or Apple Watch to prevent Siri from interrupting; There’s also Type to Siri, an accessibility feature introduced in iOS 11 that allows interaction with Siri in an iMessage-like environment. It is obviously useful for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, as well as for anyone who just wants to use Siri in a discreet way without disturbing others in quiet places.

Amazon’s new voice setting can be added to any Alexa-enabled device in the home by going to the Device Settings page in the Alexa app.

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