Last year, Amazon and Disney announced plans to develop a custom voice assistant that would combine the smarts of Alexa with Disney’s library of character voices and original recordings. Dubbed “Hey Disney!,” the voice assistant is the first non-Alexa assistant available on his Echo device and has been installed at select Disney Resort hotels. Today, Amazon is unveiling its new voice assistant to the public for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And soon, customers will be able to purchase the Disney Magical Companion voice assistant for use in their own homes.
The launch of Disney’s voice assistant has been something of an experiment for Amazon. Amazon has struggled to get its own Alexa users to use its voice assistant for anything beyond basic tasks like setting timers, creating lists, and controlling smart homes. Echo smart speakers and smart screens, or other Alexa-enabled devices. Unfortunately for Amazon, shopping through Alexa didn’t pan out either. So did other attempts to monetize Alexa through in-app purchases, voice app subscriptions, and more.
As a result of these economic factors, employees in the Alexa division have been hit hardest by Amazon’s recent layoffs.
On the other hand, Amazon’s partnership with Disney, which includes access to Disney’s intellectual property, will allow Alexa’s technology to be used for a wider range of experiences, while allowing Amazon to generate potential revenue streams from custom client solutions. I can do it.
To date, Disney Voice Assistant has been available in select Disney Resort hotel rooms as a complimentary service for guests. Visitors can ask the Assistant for relevant information such as park hours, directions to the park, and places to eat. You can also request guest services at the hotel, such as ordering extra towels or room service.
And, of course, the assistant is packed with Disney features, including jokes, interactive trivia, greetings from your favorite Disney characters, and access to Disney movie-inspired “soundscapes.” Supported voices include those of his over 20 popular characters from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and more. Ask about the weather, and Olaf from Frozen, for example, might tell you when it’s cold outside. The experience itself is guided by the Disney Magical Companion, not Alexa.
The assistant itself was built using Amazon’s Alexa Custom Assistant (ACA) solution. This allowed Disney to customize Alexa technology while supporting its own technology. First, Hey Disney! works with Disney’s interactive wearable, the Disney MagicBand+. This enhances Disney’s trivia game by turning the band into a kind of game show buzzer that reacts to lights and tactile sensations as the player answers trivia questions. Bands, typically used in parks for things like entry and access to Lightning Lane, light up and ring when alarms or timers set by guests go off.
Amazon said it helped develop Assistant and helped Disney create hundreds of custom pieces of content. The platform is also used to introduce voice assistants to consumers who have not yet interacted with them by providing tips and prompts on what they can do, such as listening to jokes or playing games.
In a statement released during CES, Alexa vice president Aaron Rubenson said, “Disney is the premier storyteller, and their stories are incredibly powerful for so many people.” Now people can keep talking to their characters, and when they return to their rooms at the end of the day, or when they go home from vacation, they can continue the story. Just imagining being part of bringing magic home is satisfying,” he added.
Disney and Amazon plan to make Disney Magical Companion available to US customers later this year, but there’s no release date at this time.