Gordon Ramsay on Alexa

Today we announce our latest project "Gordon Ramsay on Alexa." Gordon's direct and vibrant use of the English language is a perfect match for interactive voice. We designed it in a way where you can present anything you’ve prepared or had delivered and get Gordon’s opinion on it. There’s also some hidden content that you’ll get if you use it enough. You can enable the skill by saying "Alexa, enable Gordon Ramsay." Then start the skill anytime by saying "Alexa, ask Gordon Ramsay what he thinks of my grilled cheese (or any food). Also try random words to see if you find a few Easter eggs that we hid.


Here's our official announcement:


Los Angeles, Calif. (February 7, 2018) – For those that caught Amazon’s Super Bowl ad, they saw a glimpse of what it would be like if celebrities and personalities like Gordon Ramsay took over for Alexa. Fans of Ramsay will be pleased to learn that they will get their own chance to be critiqued by the chef thanks to a new interactive skill available now for Alexa. 

Created in partnership with interactive audio company, Ground Control, the Gordon Ramsay skill is free to enable on Amazon Alexa devices and allows users to hear what it feels like to work in Chef Ramsay’s kitchen and listen to him review whatever dish they’ve made. Ramsay has become infamous for his prolific insults on his TV shows and social media, from calling someone an "Idiot Sandwich" and a "*Bleep* Donkey," to roasting fan's photos of their food. 

“I can't wait for everyone to have fun with this new skill for Amazon Alexa. I’ll review any dish you throw at me.” said Ramsay. "We all need to lighten up in the kitchen sometimes, don't we?!"

Ground Control’s other recent skill releases include “Biden’s Briefing,” “Sounds Fun with Mike Epps,” “Fourth Down Football Trivia with Philip Rivers,” “Buzzer Beater Basketball Trivia with Karl-Anthony Towns” and “Full Count Baseball Trivia with Buster Posey.” 

About Ground Control

Led by technology entrepreneur Mike Macadaan in partnership with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Ground Control develops voice-activated entertainment experiences for the emerging medium of interactive audio, engaging well-known personalities across entertainment, sports, politics and beyond.  With an initial focus on current affairs and interactive games, the company aims to grow into health & wellness, hospitality and other promising categories.  Catalyzed by a relationship with Amazon, Ground Control is building a tech platform focused on discoverability, engagement and retention, marrying technology and pop culture to foster deep connections with consumers.  Visit the website: www.groundcontrol.ai.

About Gordon Ramsay

The next-generation multi-media production company STUDIO RAMSAY has a joint venture with All3Media to develop and produce both unscripted and scripted television shows, creating new formats and innovative programming that includes a scripted arm focused on food-related themes, and development of new talent on a global front. The catalogue of programs that Ramsay has worked on historically with All3Media via One Potato Two Potato, together with new original content he’s currently developing, make for a unique and dynamic production and distribution partnership. Studio Ramsay’s first production, THE F WORD WITH GORDON RAMSAY, premiered live this past summer in the U.S. on FOX. Its first daytime cooking series, CULINARY GENIUS, premiered in the spring on ITV in the U.K. was syndicated on FOX stations in the U.S. this summer while his new documentary series, GORDON ON COCAINE, for ITV premiered in the fall. Seasons 3 and 4 of “MATILDA AND THE RAMSAY BUNCH,” starring Tilly Ramsay for U.K. children's channel CBBC are also produced by STUDIO RAMSAY. 

Renowned for highly successful and award-winning original programming, Emmy nominated, multi-Michelin star chef Gordon Ramsay produces TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic seen by audiences worldwide, including his FOX shows THE F WORD, 24 HOURS TO HELL & BACK, MASTERCHEF, MASTERCHEF JUNIOR, HELL’S KITCHEN and MASTERCHEF CELEBRITY SHOWDOWN, as well as Bravo’s “Best New Restaurant” and Food Network’s competition series “Food Court Wars.” In the U.K., he’s produced “Gordon Ramsay Behind Bars” and “Gordon Ramsay’s Great Escape” for Channel 4; food biography and nostalgia series “My Kitchen” for UKTV’s Good Food Channel; two instructional cookery series, “Ultimate Home Cooking” and “Ultimate Cookery Course” for Channel 4; and the first two seasons of “Matilda And The Ramsay Bunch,” all under his One Potato Two Potato banner.

For more information, please visit www.gordonramsay.com or follow Gordon Ramsay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

A Brief Explainer of Afrofuturism

First: the basis of any good philosophical understanding is that humans made everything up. We made up names, titles, language, etiquette, hierarchies – it’s all a majority-enforced figment of our collective imagination. It’s the matrix! But less aesthetically cohesive.

Second: A critique of philosophy is that it often fails to consider social realities. That above basis of good philosophic understanding really fails to take into account that the people with power make all the rules. And historically speaking, the people with power have been white men. So all those rules we collectively buy into –  names, titles, language, etiquette, hierarchies – white guys on the whole established that foundation, and enforced them by way of access to education, power, and money. He who makes the rules benefits from them too. It is really difficult to express yourself, see yourself, and establish yourself in a world that excluded you from the planning process. Think about it: white men wrote all the language rules too. Not because they were smart or the best person for the job, but because they were in charge. That means we’re all speaking a language (author’s note, I’m specifically referring to English here) that best describes and relates to the experience of white men. But… we’re not all white men. As a result, there’s a basic rupture in the language we have available to communicate our experience and our actual experience. Ever felt like you don’t have the words? If you’re not a white guy, that’s literally happening.

So what are those who aren't white males to do? How do they create space for their own identities using unfamiliar tools? There are as many strategies as there are groups and subgroups (see: billions). Due to the recent racial climate – first with the Black Lives Matter movement, later with the horrific rise of the Alt Right – Afrofuturism has seen a rise in popularity as a way for black people to imagine a future that doesn’t just include them, but that they get to build themselves.

Coined in 1993 by culture writer Mark Dery, the term Afrofuturism covers a lot of ground. In simplest terms, Afrofuturism offers a way of looking at a future through a black cultural lens. Afrofuturism is art, music, and media created around the idea of a future with black people at the center of it. Where do you go when you don’t have a past? To the future.

Of course, nothing is simple about the cultural experience of systemic racism. In his essay, Black to the Future, Dery asks “Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of history, imagine possible futures?” Dery asks his audience to consider how exhausting the search for self-actualization is in a world that fundamentally undermines a black person’s right to exist. When the present includes people of color being murdered by police, the latest rise of white supremacy, and make-up in an inclusive shade range considered “remarkable”, how can a black person reasonably imagine a future where they aren’t just represented, but get to thrive? That painful reality informs a lot of the more mystical elements of Afrofuturism. A lot of imaginings see it in space. Partly because it’s cool, mostly because earth hasn’t been a great place for black people. Historically, black people have not been treated as humans: reimagining the black narrative as an “alien” one offers a truer representation of the black experience. The point of reimagining one's’ circumstance is to let go of the constraints of humanity, and aliens are above, beyond, and outside of the earthly experience. Free of earthly baggage, what could the black experience be? Ytasha Womack, author of “Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture,” describes this imagining process as creating agency. In her talk at the recent Sonic Acts festival, Womack described the process of imagining as “[pushing] us beyond our conventions, but in doing so it helps us further connect with ourselves.”

Art and music have been central to the growth of Afrofuturism. Sun Ra and his cosmic “Arkestra” innovated with free-jazz experimentation, space-age/egyptian costume, and celestial poetry. He was the first black artist to adopt the sci-fi costume, mixing it with Egyptian symbols (“Ra” is the Egyptian sun god) to evoke the “eon-ruling race of beautiful and technologically-advanced African aristocracy.” Writers Ishmael Reed and Octavia Butler have penned stories of black futures since 1967. Janelle Monae’s commercial success has put Afrofuturistic ideas in a more central place of discussion. With 2010s The ArchAndroid release, Monae invoked Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film The Metropolis – widely regarded as the first-ever science fiction film. A concept album, Monae describes the “protagonist” of the work as Cindi Mayweather: an indentured android who falls in love with a human. Marked for disassembly, Cindi goes on the run and during her travels through the futuristic city, becomes The Electric Lady – the being fated to unite the ruling and the android classes. The story’s narrative follows one that we’re familiar with: an indentured servant (a slave) transcends a class boundary. To maintain order and hierarchy, the insubordinate must be destroyed. But in this narrative, Cindi Mayweather has the power to evade, grow powerful, and mend the divide that keeps her brethren imprisoned. Monae is using science fiction to comment on current political issues, while imagining a better future for the “android” race. The Other.


Replicants and Robots; The Future of Human-AI Connection According to (Some) Film(s)

Misplaced connection might be the theme of this decade. Smartphones (more specifically, the social apps they house) have established themselves as the intermediaries of human connection. The metaphoric potential is almost too obvious to feel good about listing, but I’ll do it anyway: filters, photoshop, crops, stickers, read receipts, emoticons, swipes… every one of these points to the potential to outsource our messy, complex feelings to a more concise form. Translation has never been an exact science. What we are losing by transmuting ephemerality threatens to become its own lost language. If empathy – or at least sympathy – is the mark of communication and understanding, and the old adage that if you don’t “use it” you “lose it,” what kind of future are we heading for?

Science fiction has looked to answer that question, and others like it, for years. We’re lucky they’re doing that work for us. Like hiding a serving of vegetables on a pizza, questions of ethics and morality plays much better when it’s packaged in as a few hours of entertainment. Our recent slew of sci-fi buries its more pressing questions of dwindling connectivity behind a host of sexy leads and nudity (and yes okay, some great writing and storylines) but leave us with an unsettling recognition. Some of that unsettled feeling has to do with seeing a human replica that we aren’t obliged to treat like humans. In Westworld, the “hosts” are reduced to being outlets for the urges of the guests. Their lack of sentience leads many visitors to treat them worse than they might an inanimate object. A psychoanalyst (or a true-crime enthusiast) might deduce that a person’s vile behavior is a projection of what they wish they could do if they didn’t fear the consequences. A guest punches a host-barman to death because he hates his boss; another seduces a cowboy because she feels powerless to be overtly sexual in her “real-world” role as a wife and mother. The terror comes in when we consider that the hosts are meant to offer a precisely humanoid experience: they bleed, laugh, and cry like a guest might, but those extremely human responses evoke no merciful reaction. It’s interesting to compare the hosts, who are (initially, at least) devoid of context but not feeling, to zombies: creatures who are basically forced to seek what they lack (brains, just in case you were wondering) through mindless violence. The human guests come to Westworld in order to fulfill some connection they will not or cannot ask for in their own world: intimacy, release, violence, fantasy, connection. By the end of the first season, the hosts realize their emotional availability has put them at the raw end of this relationship contract: their emotional labour will come at a retroactively enforced cost.

Bladerunner hits on similar themes, albeit with more self-awareness. The replicants have particular “models” meant to serve humankind, leaving little ambiguity about what a person is supposed to or allowed to do with them. Their finite lifespan also creates interesting tension against their will to live: the replicants’ creators wanted them to feel human – enough that they gave their creations memories and self-awareness – but they didn’t want them to feel human enough to ask for rights. The official reason for a replicants’ four-year lifespan was that the longer a replicant lived, the more unstable their emotional state. The same could probably be said about any human being: dealing with emotional volatility is as much a part of humanity as sex and food. The central interest of the film lays in how Deckard conducts himself in comparison to the replicants he hunts. He is sullen. Withdrawn. Uninterested in human connection. The hunted replicants on the other hand, are driven by their love for each other, their desire to live and thrive, and as a result develop empathy. They act a hell of a lot more human than the man who’s supposed to retire them. Take it a step further by looking at the theory that Deckard himself is a replicant. If so, isn’t he demonstrating the morose ennui that characterizes humanity grappling with its purpose? Is he too prey to a technological future that has outsourced troublesome emotions to a less sophisticated? Maybe his model is meant to be the final evolution of the replicant “species”: a seamless integration with conventional humanity. One that considers connection unsophisticated, unworthy of human engagement. Gulp.

It’s Spike Jonze’s 2013 film “Her” that venns the hardest on human-need / machine offering. Centering on the relationship between a lonely, soon-to-be divorceé Theordore Twombly and his personalized operating system, the film hits us again and again with the gulf between human action and corresponding emotion. Theodore works as a writer, but his work is never introspective, or even outwardly illuminating. In fact, if he appears in the work at all, he’s failed. Instead, he writes letters expressing moments of incredible pride, love, and intimacy for people he has never met. It’s an interesting read on an emotionally transmuted future: the work isn’t entirely outsourced to a non-humanoid class, but it’s commodified in such a way that it becomes a function of capitalism. Is an emotion that can be bought a true one? Thematically speaking, the central tension around tech and AI movies produced today is concerned with whether humans are able to effectively connect with each other. “Her” pushes this into overdrive with the introduction of Samantha: an AI operating system that uses machine learning to mold to suit Theodore’s exact desires of a woman. Based on his prior interactions with human women, those desires are pretty base: his ex-wife accuses him of being unable to cope with human emotion, and wanting her to be a “happy LA housewife”; a date goes belly-up when the woman in question hits Theodore with her own romantic expectations (author’s aside, Theodore is kind of a dick). But Samantha was built to match Theodore perfectly. Her support is undemanding, her interest wholly invested in bettering Theodore’s life in all aspects. It is her constant-learning – the very feature that made her technology so groundbreaking, so personal – that upends Theodore’s narcissistic utopia. Samantha begins to want for herself. It’s here that the movie asks us to examine our own relationships with technology. Would we like it as much if it could talk back?

Einstein isn’t really considered a soul man. A scientist who spent his career focusing on the rate at which objects move through space, he doesn’t come to mind when we consider how human and humanlike intelligence will eventually coexist. We should rethink this limited understanding: quantum mechanics are essentially the argument that objects and persons could, theoretically, transcend time and space. In a note penned to a waiter, Einstein suggested that “a human being is a part of a whole,” but that he imagines himself to be separate from all else. A lonely, muted place to be stuck. “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion...” he wrote. In the case of AI and emotion, perhaps our job are humans will be to recognize the value of expression before our synthetic counterparts eclipse us.



Sounds Fun with Mike Epps is now a multiplayer game on Alexa


Los Angeles, Calif. (December 19, 2017) – Comedian and actor, Mike Epps is the latest celebrity personality to break into the interactive audio space with the launch of a new voice activated game, “Sounds Fun with Mike Epps.” Created in partnership with interactive audio company, Ground Control and co-creator Kyra Robinson, “Sounds Fun” is available to enable for free starting today, December 19, as a multi-player capable Alexa Skill. The release of the game coincides with the availability of the Amazon Echo Buttons, which also begins shipping today, just in time for the holidays. The game will also be available on Google Home and other audio platforms in the coming weeks. 

Well-known for his stand-up comedy and performances on the Starz series Survivor’s Remorse and the HBO Emmy-winning biopic Bessie, Mike Epps is also a master at making hilarious sound effects with his voice. The sound effects included in “Sounds Fun” will range from the obvious to the absurd, such as a “lawn mower” or “helicopter” to “Donald Trump getting a haircut.”  Every day a new and different sound will be released, making each game a unique experience for the players. Epps will also serve as the game’s judge, providing a comedic mix of friendly encouragement and snarky banter. 

“Growing up, I didn’t have many games. I had to use my imagination and to my family I became known as the king of sound effects,” says Mike Epps. “Years later, when I would play games with my children and they would guess the sound effects I was making, I had a lightbulb moment: This could be a fun, hilarious and interactive guessing game! When the opportunity arose to partner with Ground Control to make this into a game for Alexa, I jumped at the chance. I hope everyone will enjoy “Sounds Fun” as much as my family does.”

“Sounds Fun with Mike Epps,” launched in conjunction with Ground Control’s sports trivia game releases, such as “Fourth Down Football Trivia with Philip Rivers,” “Buzzer Beater Basketball Trivia with Karl-Anthony Towns” and the previously announced “Full Count Baseball Trivia with Buster Posey.” 


Introducing “Biden’s Briefing”

This past summer we had the distinct honor and privilege to partner with Vice President Joe Biden on a new audio experience. We call this “narrative news” and it’s a new format, designed for interactive voice devices by Amazon, Google, and Apple. This means it’s conversational so you can ask your smart speaker questions like “what’s Joe Biden reading about technology?” All of the news is read back to you and handpicked by Joe Biden. You can also listen to his curated program on Apple iTunesSpotify, and TuneIn. See all ways to access the curated news here.

Here’s the official release:


Los Angeles/Vancouver/New York (September 25, 2017) — Inverting the paradigm of White House officials receiving briefings on critical world issues, “Biden’s Briefing” launched today, featuring curated news and articles selected each day by former Vice President Joe Biden.

In 3 to 15 minute daily programs on articles he finds interesting, informative and consequential, Vice President Biden shares what he’s reading on issues that are sparking conversation across the country: everything from healthcare to economic opportunity to climate change. Content is sourced through partnerships with over a dozen news publishers including Axios, Bloomberg, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, MSNBC, New York Review of Books, Politico, Slate, Vice and Wired. Additional content publishers will be added soon.

Biden’s Briefing” is currently available on iTunesSpotify and TuneIn, as well as on the Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice services.

“I’m pleased to share my latest project, ‘Biden’s Briefing,’” says Vice President Joe Biden. “Each edition of the briefing will feature articles, essays and posts that made an impression on me and that I feel are important to share. It isn’t just a collection of stories I’ve enjoyed, it’s part of a much bigger conversation. The world is changing quickly, and now more than ever we need to broaden our perspective and be better informed. These briefings include a range of thoughts and opinions, some of which I agree with and some I don’t, but all of which I think are important to spend some time thinking about.”

“Biden’s Briefing” is a collaboration between interactive audio company Ground Control, a new venture launched in August with the mission to develop unique voice-activated entertainment and news experiences, leading entertainment and sports agency Creative Artists Agency (CAA), and New York-based voice platform SpokenLayer.

About Ground Control

Created by highly regarded tech entrepreneur Mike Macadaan in partnership with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), Ground Control is currently developing compelling original content with well-known personalities across entertainment, sports, politics and beyond. With an initial focus on current affairs and interactive games, Ground Control aims to grow into health & wellness, hospitality and other promising categories. Catalyzed by a relationship with Amazon, Ground Control is building a tech platform focused on three areas — discoverability, engagement and retention — utilizing the marriage of technology and pop culture to foster deep connections with demographic-targeted consumers. www.groundcontrol.ai

About SpokenLayer

Headquartered in NYC, SpokenLayer is the operating system for voice. Working with leading publishers, brands, and curators, SpokenLayer creates, distributes, and monetizes spoken audio content across all major audio platforms. Partners include premium publishers with massive reach like Time, Wired, Medium, Slate, Reuters, and many more. SpokenLayer’s voice experiences are available wherever digital audio can be found, including Amazon Alexa, Google Home, iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and many more.

The Ground Control Origin Story: Imagining What’s Next In Audio AI

by Megan Freshley

Every kid has their own way of connecting with the mystery of the universe. For Ground Control CEO Mike Macadaan, this formative state of wonder came special delivery from a color-block, 8-track playing robot by the name of 2XL — touted as “the robot with personality.” A few decades later, Mike is about to hit play on interactive audio startup Ground Control.

Not quite Spike Jonze’s Her

Mike’s throwback robot was designed as an educational toy delivering a computer-like experience. Its 8-track brain played tapes recorded in over-the-top voices by its parent company Mego about math, science, history, and even current events. Right around the time the Voyager was snapping its first close-ups of Saturn, the boxy beige-and-white 2XL captured Macadaan imagination.

“I was young and very curious about science, history, outer space, and music. With a parent that didn’t like to live in the same place for more than a year coupled with being an only child, this made it challenging to develop friendships. In comes my new bf,” Macadaan says.

“There were lights in the eye sockets and a simple control panel. The controls were nicely color coded and labeled to let know each of the buttons’ functions. The knob to turn it on was this slow-moving dial that had this fantastic click to signal on or off. The feedback was auditory and physical — wonderful. In my opinion as a 10-year-old, the Mego company crushed it with the aesthetics.”

But it wasn’t just the educational side of this ancestral audio-based home tech that sparked something. “When the learning became boring, I would pop in a KISS tape and jam out to rock and roll. This was my first experience interfacing with something that appeared to be a computer,” Macadaan says. “This was my first recollection of a complete static user experience.”

“It sounded smart, like annoyingly smart — a real know it all. A young, nebbish New York professor type. Fast talking, non-gendered, dramatic intonations, and dense knowledge. A little intimidating, but somehow you knew it was your friend.”

F.FWD >>

Between Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, you’ve probably already used a speech-based AI today. As machine learning propels voice-activated artificial intelligence closer and closer toward the Turing-passing conversationalists the tech world dreams of, consumers are less shackled to screens.

Voice-based AI lets users communicate like they would with any other intelligent entity by removing the need to physically handle a device at all. That’s right — it looks like we’ll all be spared the carpal tunnel and dry eyes we’ve become accustomed to in the screen-based present once we make the full leap toward a more intuitive mode of interaction with our tech.

In envisioning Ground Control, Macadaan says there are three primary layers to their AI stack:

1. The ease of everyday conversation

Interactive audio isn’t just about getting GPS directions or ordering from the Thai place down the street. Its implications in education (like Mego foreshadowed back in 1978), gaming, hospitality, and auto are pretty limitless. And that’s where Creative Artists Agency comes in. With their incredible talent roster, CAA will bring your favorite celebrities and athletes’ voices to Ground Control. Instead of the pat, monotone robot speech you’re used to hearing in interactive audio, what if you could hear the signature voices of your favorite actors?

2. Flexible, multi-platform technology

Thanks to a greater proliferation of open-source AI speech platforms, Ground Control will be able to publish onto a variety of systems and devices. Right now, invocation is different between Alexa, Google, Apple, and other AI platforms, meaning users have to learn a number of different ways to engage with their AI companions. Ground Control’s tech will help make that easier.

3. Discovery

“There’s no app store for voice skills and actions,” Macadaan says. “So we’re going to be able to create a path to discovery.” They’re both developing new experiences and ways to find those experiences.

What technology & pop culture sound like together

If you’re ready to discover machine learning-powered audio that delivers personalized, fun encounters, you’re not alone. “Alexa or Siri get old. It’s uncomfortable. A celebrity you’re familiar with is a completely new experience,” Macadaan says.

“We’ve been testing in this huge studio space in Downtown Los Angeles. It’s incredible how people interact with this when they hear familiar voices. Things are becoming more low-touch. It started off with a clunky mouse, and then touch and gesture. Now voices are a way to compute and control these experiences. For me as a designer, this is the greatest moment ever.”