Samuel L. Jackson Muscles in on Amazon Alexa’s Turf

Echo smart speakers now answer to a new celebrity name

Amazon has made it easier for users to engage with its celebrity voice skill. Amazon
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One year after debuting actor Samuel L. Jackson as an add-on for select voice queries on Echo devices, Amazon has upped the ante with a Jackson-themed wake word: “Hey, Samuel.”

In a blog post, Amazon said this makes it “more natural and intuitive to bring Samuel’s iconic voice to your Alexa-enabled device.”

Multiple “top reviews” for the skill previously complained about having to ask Alexa to “ask Sam” in the earlier version. Now, however, users who want to add Jackson can simply say, “Alexa, introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson,” and then choose “Hey, Samuel” as the wake word.

“We heard you loud and clear!” the notoriously customer-obsessed company wrote in an update about the skill.

And, for the first time, Amazon will allow users to switch between “Alexa” and “Hey, Samuel” as they please without having to change the wake word settings first.

Available for an introductory price of 99 cents (later $4.99), Jackson will set timers and alarms, tell stories and jokes, and give the weather, advice and his opinion on snakes. But, as before, he cannot help with shopping, lists, reminders or skills—and users will have to opt in to hear explicit language.

“We listened to our customers, added more of the explicit content they wanted, and refreshed some of our customers’ favorite questions for Sam, giving you even more of Sam’s signature style on your device,” the blog post said.

“Hey Samuel” works “for most” Echo devices, but not the first-generation Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Look (although owners of those devices can still use the skill the old-fashioned way by saying, “Alexa, ask Samuel”).

While Jackson was the first celebrity voice on Alexa, Amazon has since collaborated with Jimmy Fallon, Chelsea Handler and Ed Sheeran. Amazon also played with the concept of famous voices in its 2018 Super Bowl commercial, which included cameos by Cardi B, Gordon Ramsay, Rebel Wilson and Sir Anthony Hopkins as Alexa replacements.

Meanwhile, Google Assistant has added singer John Legend’s voice. However, it’s arguably Google subsidiary Waze that is at the forefront of the practice of borrowing celebrity voices, dating back to 2015 with comedian Stephen Colbert, which was followed by actor Morgan Freeman in 2016, Dateline host Keith Morrison in 2017 and DJ Khaled in 2019.

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@lisalacy Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.