Amazon Alexa gains support for Hindi/Hinglish conversations
Hindi is one of the two official languages for the Government of India, the other being English. Contrary to popular belief, Hindi is not the national language of India (the Constitution of India does not define a national language), but it is still the most spoken language in the country. As per the census data from 2011, Hindi is spoken by a good 43% of India’s population, translating into more than half a million speakers in that year, and the number has very likely increased since then. This figure needs to be compared to the English speaking population in the country, which stands at just about 130 million in that year. Generally speaking, the Indian population is more comfortable with spoken Hindi over spoken English. Google realized the need for Hindi conversation when it announced Hindi support for Google Assistant last year. Now, Amazon is bringing over support for Hindi for its Alexa voice assistant in the Amazon Echo ecosystem, tuning it for the Indian audience and expanding its scope in the country.
When Alexa was launched in India back in 2017, the voice assistant could understand and pronounce popular Hindi names and names in other regional languages, but functionality beyond this was rather limited. Now, Alexa can understand when its users are speaking to it in Hindi and Hinglish (a mix of Hindi and English) across multiple contexts and varied regional accents. Accordingly, the response is also spoken out in Hindi.
Now with Alexa, users can ask it to play popular Hindi, English, and other Indian regional language songs streamed through Amazon Prime Music, Gaana, Hungama, JioSaavn, and others through commands like “Alexa, Bollywood ke latest gaane sunao” [“Alexa, play the latest Bollywood songs”], ask it which song it is through commands like “Alexa, yeh kaunsa gaana hai?” [“Alexa, which song is this?’], or control music playback and volume control with Hindi commands. You can also ask general search queries in Hindi, ranging from informational tidbits, news, weather, jokes or even play voice games. Further actions include controlling Smart Home products with Hindi commands, setting reminders, alarms, and timers, create and manage lists, and more.
The road does not end here, as Hindi is also being made available to Third-Party Skill Developers for Alexa, so we can expect further integrations from brands like Ola, Uber, All India Radio, Shemaroo, Amar Chitra Katha, Sanjeev Kapoor Recipes, ChuChuTV and others. Hindi functionality will also expand beyond Amazon Echo devices to other devices with Alexa built-in, with brands such as Bose, Motorola, Sony, Boat, iBall and others launching or updating their existing Alexa-built in devices to support Hindi.
Existing Echo customers in India can change their device language to Hindi through the Language options inside the Device settings on the Alexa app. Once changes, users can simply ask “Alexa, tum kya kar sakti ho?” [“Alexa, what can you do”] to learn more about the Hindi capabilities of Amazon’s voice assistant.
Further, Alexa will also soon support bilingual conversations with Hindi and English used together. Alexa will be able to switch the language of her response based on the language used. This feature is expected to roll out by Diwali (late October 2019).