Have you ever wanted to play rock, paper, scissors with Samuel L. Jackson? Well, now you can, thanks to a new Alexa skill, which brings Jackson’s dulcet tones to your Echo speaker.
The new skill means Jackson can tell you about the weather, sing you a song, and even wake you up in place of your usual alarm – you have a choice of whether you want Jackson to use explicit language or not, too.
As well as that, you can ask Samuel L. Jackson more personal questions about his career and interests.
To equip the skill, open the Alexa app on your smartphone and tablet, and select Skills & Games from the menu. From there, simply search for ‘Samuel L. Jackson – celebrity voice for Alexa’, and open up the Skill detail page. There you should find an option to Enable Skill.
Right now it seems to only be available in the US, and it will set you back $1. That’s part of an introductory offer – after the introductory period ends, it will cost you $4.99.
A welcome change?
The new skill is part of Amazon’s Celebrity Voice Program, which the company announced at its hardware launch in September.
If you were hoping that you could change your default Alexa voice to Samuel L. Jackson full-time, you’re in for a disappointment – to get started, you need to say “Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson”.
Once you’ve enabled the skill, you have to preface any requests for Jackson with the Alexa wake word – for example, “Alexa, ask Samuel L. Jackson where he is from,” or “Alexa, ask Samuel L. Jackson to sing Happy Birthday”.
Amazon has come under fire in the past for giving Alexa an objectively female-sounding voice alongside a feminine name – alongside Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana.
While that may not sound like a problem at face value, society’s equating of women with voice assistants could have some worrying societal implications. In fact, a May 2019 report by UNESCO suggested that the default use of female-sounding voice assistant in our smart speakers and smartphones perpetuates sexist attitudes towards women, namely that women are docile, subservient, and obliging.
Giving Amazon Echo users the chance to speak with Samuel L. Jackson may not address these issues directly, but it does provide a refreshing change that could lead to new Alexa voices in the future – as well as offering direct competition to John Legend’s cameo on Google Assistant devices that debuted earlier this year.
Whether Apple will follow suit and furnish Siri with its own celebrity voice remains to be seen, but we’re holding out for a soothing cameo from David Attenborough.