Google just added two new natural language Assistant voices to their platform so that developers can deliver higher quality experiences to their users. The two new English-speaking voices come as an updated to their prosody model. You can listen to one of them below to get a sense for how different it sounds from the current Assistant voice you’re using on your phone.
Developers can take advantage of this update simply by changing the voice model in their Actions Console. Users will need to wait until their favorite developers implement the new voices in their apps and services though. My personal hope is that Google continues applying these natural language updates to their text-to-voice models, especially in Google Play Books for its read aloud feature. A toggle for such a thing exists in the app’s settings and can be utilized while connected to WiFi, but it could certainly improve. Giving more attention to this feature could allow them to turn any book into an audio book and skip far ahead of Audible’s offerings. In fact, they’re already working on something like this.
This wouldn’t be the first time Google has updated their voice models to sound more natural. In recent history, they have used celebrities to perform Assistant voices for a limited time – notably, singer John Legend and actress Issa Rae. Google’s journey with natural language processing began with the voice in the Search app a few years back. Two of their employees, Nat and Lo, used their 20% time at the company to interview the team of linguists experts responsible for its development. There is a ton of valuable information in their video below regarding prosody, intonation and other linguistic mechanics if you’re interested in understanding the process that goes into such an update.