Barely five years after debuting as an English voice assistant in the US, and just two years after her debut in Indian English, Alexa is now ready to interact with you in Hindi. Alexa can now understand requests in a multitude of dialects in Hindi, and a mix of Hindi and English, or Hinglish.
Alexa’s Indian avatar can respond in conversational Hindi, pick a Bollywood song for customers, belt out movie dialogues and even drum up a rap song in her smooth velvety voice.
Hindi is complex. The pronunciation and intonation can change every 100 kilometers. While it is undeniably the most spoken language in India, with 43 percent of Indians speaking the language, the range of vocabulary can vary sharply even in different Hindi-speaking regions.
To top that, there is the Hinglish, which mixes English words with Hindi phrases, such as "Time kya hai?" or translated as ‘What’s the time?’’
With Alexa now supporting conversational Hindi, it opens up opportunities for much higher customer usage and use cases. Still, this large market presents both challenges and opportunities.
The future is multilingual
In many Indian households users speak both English and Hindi. Alexa will soon have a multilingual mode so that you can interact with her in both languages without making any changes in the device settings.
For example, if a customer asks for the weather in Hindi, by saying “Alexa, aaj mausam kaisa hai?” Alexa will reply in Hindi. If the customer then asks a question in English, Alexa will switch to English.
This means Alexa can now understand customers speaking to her completely in Hindi, English or Hinglish, in multiple contexts, and varied regional accents and dialects.
You can enjoy asking Alexa for Hindi content such as jokes, shayaris, Kabir ke dohe, Panchatantra stories, Bollywood movie dialogues, more than 500 Alexa skills, and even spell in Hindi.
Get started with commands such as "Alexa, Bollywood ke latest gane sunao", “Alexa, cricket score batao”, “Alexa, sher ki aawaaz sunao”, or “Alexa, apne baare mei batao”.
Alexa demonstrated her Hindi avatar at Alexa Voxcon, Amazon's first conference in India dedicated to all things voice. The invite-only conference was attended by decision makers, technical builders from brands, software vendors and voice technology start-ups.
Solving tough problems
"Voice is a simplifier, it will break down the barrier for literacy," said Puneesh Kumar, Country Manager for Alexa Experiences and Devices, Amazon India. "You don't need to know how to read or write to interact with voice technology." Kumar was speaking at the launch of Alexa’s Hindi language avatar in New Delhi, India, at Alexa Voxcon.
Already, Amol Bhuyar, a school teacher in Warud city in Maharashtra, is using Alexa for classroom learning, by rigging Alexa to a dressed-up mannequin that children ask questions to. The kids in his classroom enjoy learning, and have access to a far greater range of information available online that goes beyond school books.
To make the Hindi voice-assistant experience seamless, Amazon engineers had to tune Alexa’s Natural Language Understanding to map multiple Hindi pronunciations and sift through them, to ensure Alexa understood customer questions properly.
After months of hard work, Alexa is on top of it all and with a light touch of humour.
Ask Alexa how she is doing in Hindi, and prepare for an unusual response. Using a classic mix of Hindi and Hinglish, Alexa, will say in Hindi that she is pleased you have asked her.
And just when you think that’s the end of the conversation, she will surprise you with a typical humourous Hinglish phrase "dil garden garden ho gaya." That’s a literal translation of a popular Hindi phrase "dil bagh bagh ho gaya," to mean that one is pleased. Bagh translates to ‘garden’ in English.
If that’s too much, just ask Alexa for weather information or to find your phone. She can do mundane tasks too.