Amazon ditches Alexa’s celebrity voices and issues no refunds

If you’ve been saving up to integrate Shaq’s voice into your Alexa devices, you’ve officially blown it. Amazon is ditching all of its Alexa-enabled celebrity voices, including Shaquille O’Neal, Melissa McCarthy and, say it ain’t so, Samuel L. Jackson. The distinct voice options will no longer be available for purchase and will no longer function even if you made a purchase a while back, as reported by The Verge.

That brings us to the topic of refunds, and it looks like there won’t be any. This isn’t earth-shattering news, as the voice options launched for just $1 before moving up to $5 in recent months. Still, buying something and having it vaporize into nothing is never fun for consumers. We’ve reached out to Amazon for clarification on these refunds and will update when we hear back.

Samuel L. Jackson has already flown the coop, with an official announcement on the purchase page about his voice avatar’s early retirement. Melissa McCarthy and Shaq still work, but only until September.

To the uninitiated, this feature was an add-on for Alexa that transformed its usual chirpy tones into that of a celebrity. This was all fairly limited when compared to Alexa’s full feature set, as the celebs won’t do reminders and don’t integrate with many skills. They do, however, tell jokes, answer questions and complete simple voice-assisted tasks. The service started with Jackson in 2019 but extended to include Shaq and McCarthy shortly thereafter.

So why did Amazon shut the feature down? Alexa’s no longer the hottest thing in the universe and the company’s hardware division recently laid off thousands of people involved with designing and manufacturing Echo speakers, so that could be part of it. Again, the feature set with these voices was on the anemic side, so maybe not enough people bought them to offset the licensing costs. Finally, there’s the AI elephant in the room. Reports indicate that Amazon is building its own large language model (LLM) like ChatGPT to radically transform Alexa, and celebrity voices may no longer fit into that vision.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at 

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