Google Assistant Uses John Legend’s Voice to Create Some Competitive Differentiation

John Legend on Google Assistant
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Amazon’s Alexa has had celebrity cameos for a while now.  Google Assistant is suddenly catching up.

Google just revealed that the silky voice of John Legend has arrived on the Google Assistant.

For a limited time, you can ask John Legend to sing you “Happy Birthday” or to tell you the weather. Legend can also answer questions in Google Assistant on both iOS and Android devices.

John Legend is one of six new Google Assistant voices that Google debuted at Google I/O 2018.  The company previewed its new speech synthesis model called WaveNet, a technology that samples human speech to re-create it using tone.

Google says WaveNet and its own DeepMind artificial intelligence reduces the needed studio time for a celebrity.

Legend spent time recording answers to prompts like “serenade me” or “are we just ordinary people?” The new mode features a few easter eggs to be discovered, too.

To activate the new mode on Google Assistant, just say “Hey Google, talk like a Legend.” You can also choose the voice manually in Voice Settings in the Assistant app. Right now the feature is only available in English in the US, but expect more celebrity cameos from Google soon enough.

Amazon has been using celebrities to promote its Alexa digital assistant for a few years now.

Last year, the company created a hilarious Super Bowl ad featuring Gordon Ramsay. Afterward, the company launched an Alexa skill to allow the obscenity-loving chef to lob a few insults at its users.

Amazon has also used celebrities to help sell things.  A skill called Oprah’s Favorite Things allows users to ask about things on Oprah’s list, and have Oprah herself describe them to you.

Manuel Bronstein, vice president of product at Google Assistant, says celebrity cameos have been a top request.

“Cameo voices on the Assistant have been one of the top requests we’ve heard from you, and with the help of state-of-the-art speech synthesis model, WaveNet, they’re now a reality.”