Talking at the Amazon’s re:MARS event, company’s head scientist and vice president for Alexa, Rohit Prasad has said that the company is working on accommodating regional language speaking capabilities in its AI voice assistant, to cater to the Indian market.
As of 2018, Alexa has added multilingual capabilities in five variants of English (U.S., U.K., Canada, India, Australia), German, French, and Japanese.
Currently, Alexa can comprehend commands in a mix of english and hindi to an extent, thanks to Amazon Cleo. Last year, Amazon has launched a new category of Alexa skills called ‘Cleo’ to help the Indian users teach Hindi and other Indian regional languages to Alexa, by simply speaking to the AI assistant.
Earlier in 2017, Amazon had also started shipping its smart speaker Echo in India with capabilities to understand local pronunciations, local knowledge, and skills.
Prasad said that for Alexa to fluently converse in Hindi, it needs to understand and react accordingly to several Indian dialects and accents.
“For us, it is a contextual, cultural as well as content-related challenge as the question is not that Alexa just needs to understand Hindi. This part we can do relatively easily but Alexa needs to be Indian when it speaks in Hindi,” he added.
According to Prasad, there are challenges in India that are not just in terms of learning the language but more about understanding the context. Giving an example, he said, even jokes which are appropriate for the American audience may not be sound appropriate in Indian languages.