Amazon Echo users who might be a little too tired of hearing the same, tired old Alexa voice and are looking for a bit more pizzazz from their smart home system are getting a new dash of sparkle from the Magic Kingdom itself. On Thursday, Disney and Amazon announced their “Hey Disney!” voice assistant that uses Alexa is available for all voice-activated Echo devices—at a price, of course.
“Hey Disney!”, as its clunky name suggests, is very much like an Alexa assistant, though it uses Disney characters instead Alexa’s soft robotic tones and has its own simulated personalities. An Echo in House of Mouse mode responds in voices from across Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars properties. Voices include Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Mater, Chewbacca, and R2-D2, though we’d need to have our own demo of that last one to understand how people can best translate the droid’s beeps and boops. The feature is available for those with an Echo Kids Plus Subscription or separately at $5.99 a year.
Users can’t necessarily choose which character responds to inquiries. As the company explained when it first launched Hey Disney! for Disney resorts, Frozen’s Olaf might respond to a query about the cold weather.
Users can have the Alexa assistant perform tasks it normally can such as setting kitchen timers or dimming the lights on other smart home devices, though the feature also comes stock with trivia games and “SoundScapes” for listening to select scenes from around the Disney repertoire. Say you wanted to get into the mood for cooking, so you decide to bust out the accordion sounds from Pixar’s Ratatouille.
There are additional “Play-Along Adventures” and Storybooks enabled using voice commands that might work well for distracting children for a few minutes at a time. Amazon told TechCrunch there are additional “Easter eggs” hidden among the experience, though the company was keeping mum on any surprises awaiting users.
Users who subscribe should only need to set up the feature with the prompt “Alexa, introduce me to Disney” which then changes the wake word to “Hey, Disney.” Notably, According to TechCrunch, the feature isn’t compatible with Fire Tablets, Fire TVs, Echo Show 15, 1st-gen Echos and Echo Auto.
The system was built using the Alexa Custom Assistant program that lets companies create their own system using the Alexa framework. Originally, it was only available at Disney resorts, and the system should also be compatible with Disney Parks’ MagicBand+.
Amazon has been trying to give its Kids brand more oomph since it nixed its strange kids-centric videocalling gadget, Glow. Whether or not this tides over young people for long enough, Alexa sure could use more voice integration, especially as of late. Last month, Amazon recently announced that several celebrity voices would be disappearing from Alexa, including the fabled Samuel L. Jackson.
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