We have questions about smart speakers. New data from Techsurvey 2021 reveal that more than one-third (35%) of core radio listeners own one. That's the good news.
But the other piece is that the growth rate of smart speakers has dramatically slowed down.
We also know that here in the U.S., Amazon smart speakers (Echo, Dot, Show, etc.) are dominant. But around the world, Google Home is the voice more people want to converse with. We'll just have to see if Amazon can hold onto its big lead here in the States. As for Apple, they're barely in the running, even though Siri had a head start.
When you mention these devices to pretty much anyone, the first name you think of is “Alexa,” the disembodied voice of millions of Amazon devices – in the home, the office, and now, in the car.
But who or what is the voice of Alexa, the most-heard smart speaker persona in America?
Is “she” a computer generated voice or is there a real person speaking as Alexa, which is then turned into synthetic speech. The technology makes it seem as if the device is conversing with you.
The same questions were asked about Siri until Susan Bennett (pictured below right), a former backup singer for both Roy Orbison and Burt Bacharach, stepped up to reveal her identity – which Apple has never confirmed, by the way.
But the real person behind the Alexa voice platform remains a mystery, especially given that she's the pre-eminent voice of Artificial Intelligence – at least in the U.S.
And according to The Verge's James Vincent, her voice may now be known.
Thanks to the investigative journalism of Brad Stone, we may now have our answer. Stone's search wasn't frivolous – he's writing a book about Alexa's parent, Amazon Unbound.
He reports the Alexa team reviewed a number of voiceover candidates, made the call, and Jeff Bezos gave the winner the green light. And Alexa, as we now know her, was born.
Here's the key passage about his search in his upcoming book.
Characteristically secretive, Amazon has never revealed the name of the voice artist behind Alexa. I learned her identity after canvasing the professional voice-over community.
So who is it?
I figured the smartest move was to go right to the source and ask Alexa “herself.”
OK, so that didn't go as planned. Alexa has the answer to millions of our questions. But when it comes to her identity, it's radio silence.
Stone is convinced the voice of Alexa is Nina Rolle, a VO artist from Boulder, CO. According to The Verge's Vincent, Stone spoke with numerous voiceover pros before making his call.
But is he right?
Like an episode of To Tell The Truth – the classic TV game show where three people (two imposters and the real person) tried to trick a panel of celebrities they were Beyoncé's old boyfriend, the second NASA astronaut on the moon, or Meghan Markle's manicurist, we love a good mystery about people.
That's also the essence of reality shows like The Masked Singer.
But thanks to Stone, this one may be solved. So is the voice of Alexa actually Nina Rolle – or not?
And the deciders will be YOU – professionals in the radio community (and anyone else reading this who wants to vote). After all, who knows voices better than the people who devote their professional lives to disseminating information and entertainment via voice?
The Verge supplied some evidence, which I'll pass onto you.
First, an “explainer” spot she did for an app that's about a minute long.
Need more proof?
A visit to Nina Rolle's website offers numerous “reads” in a number of different situations. You can check them out by clicking on this graphic below. Of the categories, start with e-learning, the one that sounds closest (to me) as having a similar rhythm to our friend Alexa.
Or click here.
Now, it's time to vote. The simple, binary, yes/no question is below::
We'll let the radio community decide.
Will the real Alexa please stand up?
I'll share the results with you Monday, as well as your best comments.