With at least one in five British homes using smart speakers, the devices are becoming increasingly important in our day to day lives.

Welsh has long been one of the few languages that were not supported by Amazon Alexa.

The technical challenges of ensuring that the Alexa system was able to understand commands in Welsh were so herculean that it’s no surprise that no one has been able to achieve this feat, yet Swansea based Mobilise Cloud has managed to develop the technology that allows Alexa to understand the Welsh language: a world first.

The Welsh language content for the Alexa system was provided by Y Pod.

Y Pod (https://ypod.cymru/) is a service that brings Welsh podcasts together in one place. With over 70 podcasts on offer, it has something for everyone.

Amazon Alexa’s ability to understand Welsh has the potential of making technology accessible for 1000’s of people who communicate in the language.

As an example of the application of the technology, S4C has launched a new skill for Amazon Alexa called Welsh Language Podcasts that allows people to search for specific content through the medium of Welsh.

“As the name suggests, Welsh Language Podcasts is a collection of podcasts in Welsh. What makes it truly unique is that, once you open the skill, you browse by chatting to Alexa in Welsh” said Rhodri ap Dyfrig, S4C’s Online Content Commissioner.

“This is the first time such technology has ever been developed on the Alexa system, so it’s something S4C, Mobilise Cloud Services and Y Pod are very proud of.

“This innovative skill is available free of charge to anyone with an Alexa device, such as Echo or Dot. It works in a similar way to an app, so all you need to do is install the skill through Amazon.”

“After months of planning and trialling it’s great to see Welsh Language Podcasts live,” said James Carnie of Mobilise.

“We built a Welsh language interpretation model a while ago that works well on Amazon Lex allowing us to build Welsh language chatbots accessible by Amazon’s Connect telephony platform. This was the first time we have used the technology inside an Alexa skill”

“Hopefully people will use the skill to show that there is a demand for such services. It’s exciting to think that this can trigger more voice technology developments in the Welsh language” added James.

“My teenage son and daughter helped with testing – they can’t wait for their friends to have a go. As my wife and children are all fluent Welsh speakers, the conversation at home often turns to English for my benefit. This will be something we can all do together, in Welsh, and I will certainly be using it to practice and learn.”

Aled Jones of Y Pod tells us “With more of us looking for entertainment as we stay at home, Podcasts that help with learning Welsh such as Welsh Word of the Day and Pigion (Highlights for Welsh learners) are proving really popular at the moment. Ffit Cymru and Clic o’r Archif are also in high demand.

“All Y Pod content is available within the skill so you can access music sports, current affairs, comedy and much more. You can search by category or ask Alexa to choose something for you if you’re feeling lucky.”

Such a development is very timely, as the number of people using voice technology is expected to increase significantly because of coronavirus as it is more hygienic than touch-enabled devices.

“If you have an Alexa device, this is a great opportunity to be part of something special and speak Welsh with Alexa. You can even do it through the Alexa app on your smartphone. It’s surreal! Try it out, explore the great content on offer and make sure you rate it and leave a review” says Aled.

Welsh Language Podcasts is available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0876JFYX8/

Seren Global Media