The actress-writer-producer is the latest celebrity to bring her voice to a digital virtual assistant. Rae is the second celeb cameo for Google Assistant, after singer John Legend’s mellifluous vocalizations came to the platform earlier this year. Amazon is getting in the game, too, recently announcing that a voice pack for Samuel L. Jackson will be coming to Alexa.
Rae’s voice is available as a cameo on the Google Assistant starting today (Oct. 10), available in English for a limited time in the U.S. for free. John Legend’s pipes are also still available as an option. To switch to Rae’s voice, users simply say “Hey Google, talk like Issa,” or select it in the “Assistant voice” settings section.
To bring her voice to Google Assistant, the tech giant used its speech-synthesis technology, WaveNet, which uses artificial intelligence to analyze speech patterns and then generates audio based on text input.
Rae said it required more than 40 hours of her saying “random sentences” in the recording booth to get the Google Assistant trained to replicate her speech. “One of the most fun days was just being myself – I give people compliments,” she said. Rae said listening to her own synthesized voice on Google Assistant was a bit bizarre: “I’ve heard it, and it’s me, which is very interesting.”
When she was first approached last year by Google about the project, she said, “I was like, ‘What? Me?’” While she was excited at the offer, she admitted, “I was a little scared… Google is huge, and I had never done anything like this.” Ultimately, she dove in: “I do consider myself to have a very helpful voice,” Rae said.
Once Rae’s voice is activated, Google Assistant users can ask for things like weather forecasts or answers to questions like, “When’s the first day of winter?” You can also ask Rae to tell a joke, sing a song, tell a secret, or provide a quote. There are also a few Easter eggs with Rae’s cameo, such as when you ask, “Hey Google, do you have any dating advice?” or “Hey Google, are you a writer?”
She can even provide a motivational message of encouragement, such as when you ask “How do I look?” Said Rae, “I am a big pumper-upper.”
All other responses will continue to be in one of the original Google Assistant voices. Rae’s cameo voice is available on any device that has the Google Assistant, including Google Home speakers, smart displays like the new Nest Hub Max, and on mobile for Android and iOS.
Rae has garnered an Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations for best comedy actress for her role in “Insecure.” She rose to prominence with her web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” Her YouTube channel “Issa Rae Presents,” which has over 450,000 subscribers, on Oct. 17 will premiere drama series “King Ester” starring Angelica Ross (“Pose”) and Janet Hubert (“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”).
She made her film debut in the acclaimed drama “The Hate U Give” and most recently starred in Universal Pictures’ “Little” and will star in two romantic-comedy movies out next year: Universal’s “The Photograph,” releasing on Feb. 14, and Paramount’s “The Lovebirds,” debuting April 3. Rae also is developing a re-imagined version of New Line’s 1996 thriller “Set It Off.”
Watch Issa Rae’s promo video for the new Google Assistant voice: