Google graveyard comes for John Legend's voice

Remember when the crooner said, with silky smoothness, "I lent my voice to the Google Assistant"? That ends on March 23.

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Back in April 2019, much to the joy of his fans and just about anyone who appreciates a smooth and deep voice, Google brought on John Legend as one of its celebrity voices for Google Assistant. Legend's voice didn't come with a particularly detailed command list; you could ask him about the weather that day, request him to sing Happy Birthday to you, or quiz him on Chrissy Teigen. All you had to do was say, "Hey, Google, talk like a Legend" and the cameo would begin.

The entire project relied on WaveNet, Google's voice synthesis technology. Instead of Legend physically recording every single answer for every single question on Earth, the software would use Legend’s voice model and simulate responses. It took on a much more natural intonation than your regular voice assistant.

Now, however, that almost year-long stint is coming to an end. Come March 23, as Google announced on Twitter, the Grammy-winning artist's cameo voice for the Google Assistant comes to an end on all iOS and Android devices.

Why end it now? — At Google I/O 2018, the company announced that Legend (who, for the record, enjoys a friendly bond with the tech giant and geeks out on Google gear) would be one of the six new voices added to the Google Assistant roster. Another addition, revealed later in 2019, was Issa Rae. As exciting these additions are, they are also very temporary.

Google has been pretty upfront about the timeline for these new voices as evidenced in its announcement about Rae's sign-on as the next assistant. That said, this still doesn't explain why Legend is leaving the roster noticeably before its one year anniversary. We're spitballing here but it's possible that Google doesn't want to foot the bill for lengthier contracts with millionaire celebrities. So, it keeps these cameos short and sweet.