University of Pennsylvania grad John Legend will soon be appearing on your local smart speaker sans music, thanks to a recently announced deal with Google to add the R&B crooner's voice to Google Assistant.
Legend's voice will be one of six new voices coming to the virtual assistant app this year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said at the company's I/O developer conference on Tuesday. The voices were developed using Wavenet, a technology that comes from Google's DeepMind artificial intelligence research unit, which the company acquired in 2014.
"Wavenet models underlying raw audio to create a more natural voice. It's closer to how humans speak," Pichai said Tuesday. "The pitch, the pace, even all the pauses that convey meaning — you want to get all that right."
The new voices will be available on phone and home speaker editions of Google Assistant this year, Pichai added.
A video played during the announcement showed Legend recording some audio for the project, including phrases like "i want a puppy with sweet eyes, and a fluffy tail" and "happy birthday to the person whose birthday it is." As Pichai explained, Wavenet will extrapolate Legend's voice for specific questions and requests for use in Google Assistant.
"Clearly he didn't spend all the time in the studio answering every possible question that you could ask," Pichai said. "But Wavenet allowed us to shorten the studio time, and the model can actually capture the richness of his voice."
Following Google's announcement, Legend's wife, Chrissy Teigen, joked on Twitter that "I don't even need human John anymore."
"Well," Legend replied online, "the Google Assistant doesn't do everything."
As it turns out, he also makes good burgers:
Held annually, Google's multi-day I/O event serves a place for the company to tease advancements in artificial intelligence, as well as provide previews of upcoming products.
Legend is a 1999 Penn grad, having majored in English with a concentration in African-American literature and culture. During his time at Penn, Legend was known for his performances as part of Counterparts, an a cappella group at the school, as well as his piano playing, the Daily Pennsylvanian reports.
In 2014, Legend returned to the school to give a commencement speech in which he encouraged graduates to "go all in" on their futures.