These Celebrity Voices Are Disappearing From Amazon’s Alexa


Celebrity voices are disappearing from Amazon’s Alexa including the widely popular voices of Shaquille O’Neal, Melissa McCarthy, and Samuel L. Jackson. Amazon jumpstarted the feature with Jackson in 2019, offering the option for consumers to download the actor’s voice for just .99 cents, but recently increased the cost to $4.99.

Prime Day Ain’t That ‘Green’

The company first notified consumers that it would be removing Jackson’s voice in December, but can continue to access the feature until June 7, 2023. An official note on Amazon’s purchase page for Jackson’s voice says it “is no longer available for purchase. Customers who previously purchased the experience may continue to use the skill until April 2023 by saying ‘Hey Samuel.’” Customers who purchased McCarthy and O’Neal’s voices will be notified that time is running out four months before it officially becomes unavailable on September 30, 2023.

Although Amazon will not automatically issue a refund to consumers who purchased the voice, a spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo, “After three years, we’re winding down celebrity voices. Customers will be able to continue using these voices for a limited time, and can contact our customer service team for a refund.”

Amazon will continue to offer a variety of voice options which include American, Australian, British, Canadian, and Indian voices, the company said in an email but did not provide additional information about why it has decided to remove the celebrity voice feature.

The company has made spending cuts in recent months since Andy Jassy took over the CEO position in July of last year. He first criticized some of Amazon’s investments, including that of its Alexa product, saying it lost the company $5 million in operating losses in recent years. Amazon also became one of the many Big Tech companies to carry out mass layoffs earlier this year, affecting 18,000 employees, and Amazon Hardware Chief Dave Limp told CNBC that nearly 2,000 of those laid off were part of the Alexa and Echo product division.

“We try to sell our products roughly at break-even, sometimes a little bit more,” Limp told the outlet at the time. “Then, as customers use them, say they shop from their Alexa, that benefits all of Amazon, and gives the customer a great shopping experience, and that’s how we want to monetize these things moving forward.”

Leaked documents reveal that the company may be looking toward ChatGPT and other AI to assist with its voice feature, Business Insider reported. The former celebrity voice option, featuring Jackson, McCarthy, and O’Neal was confined to simple information requests like shopping lists, reminders, or skills, but using AI chatbots could expand results across videos and audio, according to the documents.

It still remains unclear whether Amazon will officially incorporate AI into its Alexa, but Jassy said during an earnings call last week that the company was building a “much larger and much more generalized and capable” LLM (large language model) underneath Alexa. “I think that’s going to really rapidly accelerate our vision of becoming the world’s best personal assistant,” Jassy said during the call. “I think there’s a significant business model u

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