Amazon and Disney announced Thursday that “Hey Disney!,” the new voice assistant built on Alexa technology, is officially available in the U.S. for most voice-activated Echo devices.
Hey Disney! marks the first time that an Alexa Custom Assistant (ACA) has launched on Echo devices inside customers’ homes. ACA allows companies to customize Alexa’s technology so it’s specific to their brand and supports their in-house tech.
The custom assistant has its own voice and personality, which has named the “Disney Magical Companion.” It features over 20 characters across Disney, Pixar and Star Wars franchises, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Olaf, Moana, Dory, Mater, Chewbacca, R2-D2, Fozzie Bear and more.
While users can ask Hey Disney! simple commands like setting an alarm or timer, there are also thousands of custom interactions, from jokes and greetings to trivia games and soundscapes, among other activities. Plus, users can engage in “Play-Along Adventures” or interactive audio and visual experiences. The companies wrote in the announcement that the adventure feature allows users to go on “fun-filled journeys like going fishing with Goofy.”
Additionally, there will be hidden “Easter Eggs” built into the experience, which will apparently “surprise and delight customers,” Aaron Rubenson, VP of Amazon Alexa, told TechCrunch.
It’s worth pointing out that users can’t always choose which character they want to interact with. Depending on what the user asks, Hey Disney! will either respond as the voice of the Disney Magical Companion or a specific character. For example, if a user wants to know the weather, Olaf may answer if it’s cold outside. Mind you, there are a few instances where users can request a specific character, Rubenson explained, like if they want to go on an interactive adventure with Pluto and Mickey.
Users must sign up for an annual subscription in the Alexa Skills Store to access the voice assistant, which costs $5.99 per year. It will also be included with a subscription to Amazon Kids+ ($4.99/month or $48/year).
To start the experience, users can tell their Echo device, “Alexa, introduce me to Hey Disney.” Note that Hey Disney! doesn’t work on Fire Tablets, Fire TVs, Echo Show 15, 1st gen Echo and Echo Auto.
Hey Disney! was initially announced in 2021 and first rolled out to guests staying at Disney World Resort hotels. Visitors could ask the assistant park-related questions like what time Disney World opens/closes or recommendations on where to eat. They can also order room service or request extra towels.
Amazon previously claimed that the voice assistant doesn’t save the audio recordings for the in-room interactions at Disney World Resort hotels. However, the guidelines are a little different for the in-home version.
The company says that the in-home Hey Disney! experience is similar to other child-directed experiences on Alexa, so not only is parental consent required, but customers also have to go to settings in order to manage the use of their children’s voice recordings.
Notably, the Hey Disney! launch comes on the heels of Amazon being charged a $25 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule. The FTC wrote in a release that Amazon kept kids’ Alexa voice recordings, misleading parents about the company’s data deletion practices. Amazon told users that they could delete kids’ voice recordings yet the FTC found that the company “failed to follow through on these promises,” it wrote.
Separately, Amazon recently shut down its celebrity voices feature, which included text-to-speech model-generated voices for Samuel L. Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal and Melissa McCarthy.
Amazon’s ‘Hey Disney!’ voice assistant is now available by Lauren Forristal originally published on TechCrunch