Why the Google Assistant in India Doesn’t Sound Like a Human

Google Assistant will soon support languages like Tamil, Gujarati and more in India. 

Tech News
3 min read
Google Assistant on Android localises in a new way for Indian users. 

Google and Amazon are battling to convince Indian consumers that voice-enabled speakers are the future and that it’s high time they warm up to it. To push their case, both tech giants are working to support multiple languages like Marathi, Gujarati and Tamil. Google also shared its plans to get it working in the coming months.

But currently, what many people using the Assistant from Google in India feel is that the voice assistant is a long way from sounding human. On the other hand, its direct rival, Amazon’s Alexa has managed to pick up the Indian accent, even though support for local languages like Hindi are still missing from the Echo range of speakers.

Interestingly, Google at a recent media event demoed Marathi on Assistant, which sounded a lot different from how its Assistant speaks in English and Hindi right now. So, how is that the Google Assistant speaks fluently in Marathi but not in English in India?

When quizzed about Google’s apparent lack of localised voice assistant, Pravir Gupta, Director of Software Engineering, Google Assistant accepts the current situation and promised that it is working to make it better. How is Google planning on doing that?

Google relies on text-to-speech (TTS) technology, which enables the Assistant to analyse a person’s voice and respond to it.

We have been advancing the TTS technology to improve speaking skills of the Assistant. We’re already using Wavenet to make sure the new languages are spoken effectively by the Assistant. 
Pravir Gupta, Director - Software Engineering, Google Assistant

This is the reason behind Marathi sounding natural, while other languages, including English and Hindi are also expected to gain its benefit.

Google Home doesn’t let you switch off the microphone. 
Google Home doesn’t let you switch off the microphone. 
(Photo: The Quint)
In English, we are looking to give you options of voices, improving the pronunciations as well. You’ll see the impact of WaveNet for India English very soon.
Pravir Gupta, Director - Software Engineering, Google Assistant
WaveNet works on the sound generation of Google Assistant. When a person speaks, that is voice recognition for the device. With WaveNet, Assistant is able to understand other languages and respond; that part is called TTS, and this is where WaveNet comes in.  
Google is adding utility features to Google Assistant for India. 
Google is adding utility features to Google Assistant for India. 
(Photo: The Quint)

Pravir wants Google Assistant to speak in the right tone, with nouns and ability to converse more, which will soon become possible with the help of WaveNet.

He also confirmed that Google Assistant will start speaking in Hindi on Google Home very soon.

“We’re waiting to make sure the quality is right and once we’re convinced, the support will roll out,” he added. In addition to this, continued conversation on Google Assistant, available in India on mobile and Google Home, is also helping to improve the user experience, according to him.

Google launched its Home range of speakers in India earlier this year and while it’s early to estimate its response from the market, Pravir is convinced that GA’s improving ecosystem will gradually find takers in the country.

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