Alexa could soon be reading out long-form articles or even presenting a podcast, thanks to newly acquired long-form reading abilities.
Updated by Amazon this week, and available for Alexa skill developers to get started with right away, the voice assistant is now better able to speak for extended periods of time, while sounding natural.
To do this, Amazon used deep-learning technology to adjust how Alexa pauses between paragraphs.
This update builds upon improvements made to Alexa in 2019, when Amazon made the assistant better at reading news headlines and music content, and helped it express excitement and disappointment.
Now, developers creating Alexa skills for the US market can take advantage of the most recent updates.
Amazon says the new long-from abilities can "help customers engage with large amounts of content or information such as articles, podcasts and other longer form content."
Alexa can now speak in longer sentences, for extended periods of time
The retail giant suggests this could help Alexa read out the content of web pages (potentially to help users with impaired vision), or read a storytelling section of a game played by interacting with Alexa.
Amazon explains how the update works: "Powered by a deep-learning text-to-speech model, the long-form speaking style enables Alexa to speak with more natural pauses while going from one paragraph to the next or even from one dialog to another between different characters."
Amazon has provided a pair of Alexa recordings on its developer website that people can hear, one before the long-form feature had been applied and one with Alexa's new speaking ability. There isn't a great deal of difference, but the longer pauses between sentences help make Alexa sound more natural. We can imagine listening to Alexa read out a full article without it sounding too robotic.
You can listen to Alexa speaking before the update here, and after the update here.