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Thursday, 27 July 2017 15:49

Amazon wants a Strine tutor for Alexa


Presumably foreshadowing an official launch of the Amazon Echo in this part of the world, Amazon is looking to hire a linguist with an Australian background and excellent proficiency in Australian English.

That's probably a good idea, because Google Home — the equivalent product from the Alphabet company — already knows Australian English, so Amazon would start from a bad position if it started selling Echo here without a similar capability.

Amazon Echo uses the company's Alexa voice technology.

According to the job ad, "This role focuses on speech and language data, primarily in the areas of transcription, text annotation, and general data analysis deliverables."

There's a lot of HR-speak in the ad: "deliverables," "data customers," "passion," "proactive" and so on. And what's with using the vague term "associate" if you really mean "employee" or "the successful candidate"?

In addition to being a linguist, applicants must have worked as a transcriber or annotator, preferably using the X-SAMPA system for phonemic transcription.

The job is based in the Boston area. You could be forgiven for thinking it would make more sense to use someone living in Australia and therefore in close touch with changes in the way we speak

Amazon currently has offices in Boston's Back Bay district, as well as in the Kendall Square area of neighbouring Cambridge. The company recently announced that its new offices in the Fort Point neighbourhood — expected to open next northern spring — will be occupied partly by employees working on voice technology.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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