Voice Recognition Technology

Everyone knows about Siri, the voice recognition software that, over the course of the past two years, has gained some pretty impressive capabilities. Google Voice has some equally impressive technology behind it, too. (Although its transcription process is far from perfect. The Humanist Hour Podcast sometimes makes fun of what they call the “Google Garble” for its mistranscriptions…)

But those are some of the more visible examples. There are companies that have replaced the old “Press 1 for This Department” with a voice recognition technology.

This, then, leads me to a telemarketing call I received earlier today; this is not the first time I’ve gotten a call like this, but it’s the first time I put a hypothesis I’ve had, to the test about it.

It always starts off the same. A male voice that definitely sounds like it’s been recorded says “Hi, this is {the name changes each time}. How are you today?”

Because it sounds recorded, my response has been consistent: “Are you a human being?”

With a somewhat stiff-sounding laugh, “he” says, “Yes, I’m a human being” and proceeds with the spiel.

This is where I should mention that I can’t hang up on people. That’s how my parents raised me and I can’t break it, even on people who deserve it. I have no such compunctions, though, about computers.

Usually about a sentence or two into the spiel, I come to realize that it’s a recording and I hang up. I didn’t do that today. I said, “I don’t believe you.”

That set the voice recognition technology a little bit off and it tried to get back into the spiel. That’s when I pushed it and said, “Name the President of the United States.”

It objected to that question on the grounds of professionalism.

I said that I wouldn’t believe that it was a human being unless it told me the name of the president of the United States.

It reasserted that it was a human being.

I repeated my stance. If the entity on the other end of the phone was really a human being, it would need to name the President of the United States.

That’s when the entity on the other end terminated the call.

However annoying that whole exchange was, I’ve got to admire the voice recognition technology in light of the fact that I’m obviously not the only person who thinks that the “person” who called me, is a computer…

And now I know how to handle it next time…


One response to “Voice Recognition Technology

  1. Voice recognition is always fun… Imagine this – while traveling in a car along with my friends, from nowhere, I just shot a question – “why doesn’t the sea freeze?”. One my friends, who wanted to flaunt(?) his iPhone, which was also showing some directions then for driving, shouted “Siri, why doesn’t the sea freeze?” You know what we all heard back?! “Sorry, but there are no matches found for why doesn’t he please!!” All of us burst into laughter!

    I remember my college project… where along with my buddies, we tried to speculate what would happen if computers on a network start getting bored and started to converse like how humans do… we had a random number fed in.. and the results there were amusing too… after around 30 pages of “new learning”, there was just blind repeats of past learning..!

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