Anybody can be your travel guide with customized Waze voices

Switch the app's default voice and have someone you care about tell you when you missed the exit.
Phone showing Waze directions, probably using recorded voices for navigation
Why have an machine-generated voice guide you, when you can have your own kid tell you where to turn? Thibault Penin / Unsplash

If driving your car is your main form of transportation, then Waze (available for Android and iOS) offers a solid alternative to Apple Maps and Google Maps when it comes to turn-by-turn navigation. But one thing that sets the app apart from the rest is the ability to record new voices for directions.

And it doesn’t have to be your own. For example, you could have one of your kids or that friend with the baritone to get you to your destination every time. You might even want to hear how your own voice does the job.

Note that these custom Waze voices only cover the basics of the directions. At the moment, Waze can’t leverage the artificial intelligent power to adapt your voice to pronounce the name of every place, road, city, or town in the world—although it might only be a matter of time before a feature like this is available.

Recording a new Waze voices

Menu to record a new Waze voice for navigation
It might take a while to record all the clips, but you can do them in batches and come back whenever you want. Screenshot: Waze

Open Waze on your phone. If you have an Android device, tap the three horizontal lines in the top left corner of your screen, followed by Settings; iPhone users should tap the My Waze heading at the bottom, and then the cog icon in the top left corner of the interface. Select Voice and sound, then the current voice used for navigation (most likely Waze voice), and finally, Add a voice.

You’ll see a safety warning reminding you to make sure that the verbal instructions you record are clear and accurate, and then Waze will ask for your permission to use your phone’s microphone. After that, it’s time to record—let your inner voice actor out or ask the person whose voice you’re using to step in.

[Related: Navigating with GPS is making our brains lazy]

Tap Name your voice at the top of the screen to identify the new narrator, and choose the phrases you want to record: There’s a comprehensive list with everything from “Let’s get started—drive safe!” to “Take the fourth exit”. You don’t have to tackle all of these in one go: you can always come back and finish your recording later, and Waze will default to its regular voice for any clips still pending.

When you choose a phrase, a recording window will pop up. Tap the red circle button to register your voice, and the blue play button to hear it back. Waze will tell you how many seconds you have to get each phrase in, so you can’t drag it out too much—the time will count down as you’re recording to make it easier to fit all of it in there. When you’re happy with a clip, tap Save.

As you start to build up the bank of voice recordings, you’ll see the red record buttons next to each phrase change—tap the blue play button to hear the clip, and a trash can button to delete it and try again. If you’re done for the day, tap Save to go back to the main Waze app.

How to switch between Waze voices

Waze voices menu for navigation
Once you record your own Waze voice, name it and choose it from the list on the app. Screenshot: Waze

When you record a voice, the app will automatically set it as the default navigation narrator. To change it in the future, head to the settings screen on your phone as detailed above, and choose Voice and sound. A blue checkmark will sit next to the voice you’re currently using.

You’ll notice that Waze offers a wide selection of fun and serious voices to pick from, including cats, dogs, and noir detectives. Some of these voices will have an “including street names” label, which means they’ve been programmed with these specifics on the map. If you choose one that doesn’t (including your own recordings), you’ll have to settle for machine-generated voices and pronunciations for the names of specific streets and places.

[Related: Learning a new language? Here’s how to perfect your pronunciation.]

When it comes to the custom Waze voices, you’ve got two little icons next to each one: Tap the pen icon to go back to the recording screen to make changes and add phrases, or tap the share icon (an arrow pushing out of a box) to send your recorded voice clips to someone else on Waze. Maybe grandparents also want to be directed around town by your kids, so just tap the Share button to confirm and pick a contact or an app to share a link in.

So, next time you need to hit the road, open the map screen on Waze, enter your destination, and your selected voice will guide you there. You can also change the voice mid-drive by tapping the speaker icon next to the estimated time of arrival and choosing then Voice directions.