Amazon launches Arabic version of text-to-speech service at Dubai summit

Dubai's Emirates NBD is using AWS' Amazon Polly in its automated call centre
Amazon launches Arabic version of text-to-speech service at Dubai summit
Dr Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon.com, speaking at the AWS Summit in Dubai.
By Neil Halligan
Thu 18 Apr 2019 11:26 AM

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms, launched an Arabic version of its text-to-speech service at its summit in Dubai this weeek. 

Amazon Polly, a cloud service that converts written content into human-like speech, is now available in Arabic. The service, available to AWS users, turns Arabic text into lifelike speech using a female voice named Zeina.

AWS said the service supports companies in developing digital products that use speech synthesis for a variety of use cases, including publishing and telephony, automated contact centres, language learning platforms, translation apps, and reading of articles.

“If you have something like Alexa, it consists of two major components: one is a speech recognition and natural language understanding, and that's a service that we have called Lex. That model doesn't have Arabic in it yet,” Dr Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon.com told Arabian Business in an exclusive interview.

“The second piece of this whole model is text to speech. So how can you engage your customers with spoken words. Basically you can write a script that has whispering, pauses and all sorts of emotions in it.”

Zeina speaks

While Arabic s one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, it consists of 30 dialects. Zeina follows Arabic’s universal form - Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which tends to sound formal because it differs from day-to-day speaking style, accoirnding to Marta Smolarek, a programme manager in the Amazon Text-to-Speech team.

Dubai’s Emirates NBD, the largest lender in the emirate, said it is using Amazon Polly to develop new voice banking solutions to better serve its customers.

“Emirates NBD has been an early mover in the region in introducing an AI-powered virtual assistant, helping customers calling the bank to converse in natural language and access required services quickly,: Suvo Sarkar, senior executive vice president and group head – Retail Banking & Wealth Management.

“We are now integrating Amazon Polly in English with our automated call centre for its quality and lifelike voice and to further enhance customer interactions, and looking to integrate Amazon Polly in Arabic soon. Such technologies will also help us improve our internal efficiencies while delivering better customer experiences.”

Full interview with Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon.com, to appear in Arabian Business magazine in the coming weeks. 

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