Amazon Alexa uses computing technology to listen to your commands and respond accordingly. But, soon enough, Amazon's assistant will actually sound like a human.

In a blog post on Tuesday, Amazon said that it will be adding human emotion to Alexa's repertoire. Now, Alexa will be able to respond with different emotions, including a "happy/excited" emotion and a "disappointed/empathetic" tone.

It's unclear exactly how the feature will work in practice, but Amazon said that when you incorrectly answer a query posed by Alexa, the assistant will sound disappointed and upset. When the virtual assistant responds with good news, it'll call on its happy tone as it answers.

But Amazon isn't stopping there. The company also said that Alexa will get two new speaking styles -- News and Music. In the News version, you can expect the assistant to sound very crisp and to the point. With the Music version, Alexa will speak more slowly and with a more relaxed vibe.

So, what does that actually mean for Alexa's users?

Ultimately, one of the biggest problems in the world of virtual assistants is that they still sound a lot like computers trying to answer queries. Amazon, Apple, and other companies building virtual assistants are trying to get to a point where the assistants sound like humans and can create a better dialogue with users.

Amazon's improvements to Alexa are a step in that direction. Indeed, if Alexa can actually speak with emotion, it would put the virtual assistant ahead of competitors, like Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana, which are still working hard to get there.

If nothing else, the move suggests big changes are coming in our experience with virtual assistants. As time goes on, and especially as we look ahead to 2020, you can expect assistants to sound like humans and be more expressive.

Whether that'll actually be what we want in practice remains to be seen. Ultimately, what users want more than anything is a better, more accurate virtual assistant. And while Amazon and others are working on that, a push to deliver a normal sounding Alexa may be little more than a distraction from what we ultimately want.

Published on: Nov 27, 2019
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