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If only we could do this with certain people in our lives!

Alexa will speak up to two times slower or four times faster than normal with a new capability from Amazon in the United States. Users will be able to say, “Alexa, speak slower,” or “Alexa, speak faster,” or tell Alexa to speak at the “default rate” to change how quickly the voice assistant talks, the company says.

It’s part of an initiative called “Alexa for Everyone,” which Amazon has described as an effort to make the voice assistant more usable by people with disabilities, older customers and family caregivers. But as with many accessibility features, it could also see broader adoption by the larger population of users.

“We heard from customers that they would like the ability to change Alexa’s speaking rate for a variety of reasons,” said Sarah Caplener, who heads up the initiative, in an Amazon post. “Some of our hard of hearing and older customers shared how they love talking to Alexa and how she has become a companion but sometimes they would like her to slow down so they can better understand her responses. On the other hand, some of our customers who are blind or low vision are used to consuming audio content and want to be able to listen more quickly.”

This has been a longstanding feature request from Alexa users. Amazon says it has tested the feature with employees and select customers, and has been encouraged by the response. The company says the feature will be available starting today.

Amazon’s primary competitor in smart speakers and voice assistants, Google, introduced variable playback speeds last year for podcasts and news on its Google Home devices.

Update: After publication, the feature started working on my Echo Spot, as you can see and hear in the video above. The suggested phrase “default rate” didn’t work for me, but “normal rate” did.

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