Amazon has quietly begun rolling out a new, masculine-sounding voice alternative to its virtual Alexa assistant along with a similar masculine-sounding watchword to trigger the assistant: “Ziggy.” (The strange choice of name is presumably to fit Amazon’s love of “A to Z” style branding.)
The new voice option was actually added several days ago along with an announcement for new celebrity voices like Shaq and Melissa McCarthy, but it went largely unnoticed until it was discovered by The Ambient. You can hear a selection of the new voice option here.
The word “ziggy” joins the existing “Alexa”, “Computer”, “Echo” and “Amazon” wake words that have been available for use in Alexa for years. Amazon does not associate “Alexa” with the feminine-sounding voice and “Ziggy” with the new masculine-sounding alternative; users can use one of the voice options with any of the watch words.
You can switch between the two voice options – which Amazon refers to as “Original” and “New” – by asking Alexa to “Change your voice”, and you can similarly choose a new password by asking it to “Change your password” yours. ”The change appears to be device-specific, though, so you need to set the new voice on each of your Alexa devices.
Amazon has been a holdout when it comes to offering a male audio option for its digital assistant; Apple and Google offer several voice options for Siri and Google Assistant, respectively. None of these companies anymore associate specific voices with gender: Apple’s Siri options are presented as “Voice 1” and “Voice 2”, while Google’s voice options are listed under a variety of colors.
Amazon has only offered its feminine-sounding alternative since Echo was first introduced in 2013. And while The New York Times notes that Alexa will answer gender questions by answering “I’m not a woman or a man, I’m an AI,” Amazon still tends to refer to the Alexa personality by using the gender forms “she” and “her “in the documentation.
This is despite the same documentation emphasizing that Alexa is not “a person with a physical body or a gender identity”, and that Amazon does not allow organizations (such as Skills or ACP) to refer to Alexa as “she” or “her”. ‘”
The new, masculine Alexa voice option is reportedly only available in the US at the moment, but it will probably soon reach other regions.