April 28, 2019

Disturbing new speech trend detected.

I just heard a voiceover announcer on TV who talked like Siri or Alexa. Maybe it actually was a computerized voice... consider this.

I hope it was a computerized voice, because what I heard made me worry that soon we would have human beings who'd picked up that style of speech.

Young people, including little children, may be going to Siri or Alexa with their questions these days. That's where you get answers, so why talk to your parents, who don't know much, or ask your friends and risk embarrassment? The new generation is talking to machines, so don't be surprised when you hear them talking like robots. You will look back nostalgically at the time when suddenly all the young people had acquired uptalk and creaky voice.

Vocal styles are contagious, and the robots are doing the talking. You could just welcome it. It's calm and unbabyish. At least Siri and Alexa don't teach uptalk and creaky voice.

77 comments:

Lincolntf said...

People have been trying to create A.I. sports commentators for a few years. They had pretty much hit a brick wall last I heard.

Fernandistein said...

vocal styles are contagious

I've often wondered what people sounded like before recordings existed; even relatively recent 1920s-30s speech often sounds harsh and weird.

Speech from brain waves:

Synthetic speech generated from brain recordings

"A state-of-the-art brain-machine interface created by neuroscientists can generate natural-sounding synthetic speech by using brain activity to control a virtual vocal tract -- an anatomically detailed computer simulation including the lips, jaw, tongue, and larynx."

Fernandistein said...

Speech synthesis from neural decoding of spoken sentences (audio)

rcocean said...

Hearing Blaisy ford uptalk and be creaky was weird. A 50 y/o woman who sounded 14.

jimbino said...

Nobody will take Alexa for human until she manages to say "absolutely" and "awesome" every other word and masters the singular "they."

daskol said...

Soon we'll miss vocal fry, which at least sounded analog and human.

vocal styles are contagious

One of the funnier running jokes in the SM Stirling Emberverse series is the way one of the post-apocalypse groups that thrives in Oregon adopts the "stage Irish" dialect of its founder, who is a folk-singer/bard of American of Irish ancestry who played up her lilt in her act. Some actual Brits find their way across the Atlantic a decade or so after the "Change" and are boggled by what they hear. Not only are vocal styles contagious, but as this joke makes clear, vocal styles can mutate very quickly and speech can take different directions in isolated communities (or trend alarmingly similar in our current connected society).

wholelottasplainin' said...

As long as "Naked News" exists, A.I. newscasting doesn't stand a chance.

tcrosse said...

Soon we'll miss vocal fry, which at least sounded analog and human.

I will never miss uptalk and vocal fry, because I despair that they will ever go away.

rehajm said...

I'm sorry, I can't help you with that.

Achilles said...

Ann tells the Kids to Get off her lawn.

Nobody said...

masters the singular "they."

Native speakers of English have no problem with that construction, jimbino.

Greg Hlatky said...

"Disturbing new speech trend detected."

Oh, I thought it was people assuming they could say what they wanted.

stevew said...

"Soon we'll miss vocal fry, which at least sounded analog and human."

I'll never miss vocal fry, but this does sound creepy and crappy. I am really annoyed by the implied lack of confidence when statements end as questions.

Get off my lawn indeed.

whitney said...

I have noticed Siri or Alexa voice. It's the voice you use when you want your device to pay attention to you. It's very odd. It's another reason not to have them

tcrosse said...

I'm like, whateverrr.

rhhardin said...

There's a need for a siri calling in sick voice standard.

hstad said...

".....masters the singular "they." Just another useless attempt at the "Gender" bending efforts of activists who need to feel important about such issues. Similar to these idiotic people discussing the awarding of singular "they" as the award of the year. Really?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/08/donald-trump-may-win-this-years-word-of-the-year/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.72545499eef9

ALP said...

"At least Siri and Alexa don't teach uptalk and creaky voice."

Yet. Give Silicon Valley time...

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

My little child has only mastered yelling "Alexa! Stop!"

Anything that makes creaky voice and uptalk go away, I am in favor of. Sometimes Mr. Pants will put conference calls on speaker when we're both working in our home office and the thirty-year old females cannot end? any sentence? without a question mark? It's infuriating.

Arashi said...

Ha! It is just about time for all talking heads to get the Max Headroom treatment. Why on earth pay some 'person' to mouth canned speech for an audience when you can just generate the speech via computer and save a bunch of bucks. Besides, with the talking heads put on the unemployment line, the folks behind the scenes can just taylor the on-screen persona to match whatever demographic they want/need for a particular reading.

Since most block-buster movies are pretty much all CGI - and folks love them - just move it all to the 'news' folks on air.

Krumhorn said...

My Siri is the voice of a gorgeous Australian woman. I love it. I just asked her “Hey, Siri, are you wearing a cute skirt?”
Her response was “Hmmmm ...that’s something I don’t know”

That wasn’t very helpful, but at least she didn’t report my ass to HR.

- Krumhorn
#NotMeToo

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

"Siri-- open the pod-bay door"
"I'm sorry, Dave, I cant do that"

Original Mike said...

People tune into news programs to get the "human touch"?

They are in denial.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

"Siri-- who is the President of the United States?"

"The President of the United States is Donald J. Trump"

Krumhorn said...

I asked her “Hey, Siri, do you have a boyfriend?”

Her reply was “I’m not into terrestrial partnerships. I’m more of a free radical!”

Getting a chubby.

- Krumhorn
#NotMeToo....yet

Original Mike said...

What I find disturbing is the humans suggesting they tone down the annunciation. Really? We want to purposely decrease understanding?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

At least Siri and Alexa don't teach uptalk and creaky voice.

...yet.

Martin said...

A fair number of people are now making youtube videos that have a narration voice-over that is digital, not a real person.

I find them creepy and very poor because they lack any inflection and often mispronounce technical words. I don't know why the makers use them, because in many cases some of their videos have "real" narrators, and I am talking about videos of maybe 10 minutes or less in length, where it can't be all THAT hard to get someone to read a script.

Maybe younger people are more used to this and it doesn't bother them, I find it quite off-putting. Not the principle of a machine replacing a person, but the product, itself, is no good.

traditionalguy said...

Creaky voice is the best part of free speech.The second they speak you have completed enemy identification.

Rockport Conservative said...

You are right, vocal styles are contagious. I am one of those people who has embarrassed herself by picking up an accent while talking with the person who has the accent. It was much worse when I was younger. I don't know if all children do it, my twin and I have discussed this because we both have that problem. Some people may be flattered by it, I don't know. No one has ever called me on it, but if I start talking like Siri or Alexa, I sure hope they will.

traditionalguy said...

We could program her so that when anyone asks Siri." what is truth" her answer recites the Apostle's Creed. And make the Muzzies use that program.

James K said...

You can choose different voices--male, female, British, Australian, etc. So far, Valley Girl isn't one of the options. But if they just insert "like" into every other word, they pretty much have it.

Krumhorn said...

My law partner comes in on Tuesday mornings talking like Shaun Murphy. And she wears cute skirts.

I’m in heaven. Some day I’m going to ask her if she and Siri hang out at the same free radical bar.

- Krumhorn
#NotMeToo...but dangerously close

Limited Perspective said...

Can they do the gay voice?

Rory said...

Ten years from now, will there be anything to be said for live actors in recorded media? Cartoons don't demand star pay, they sound and look human - which are you going to use?

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BleachBit-and-Hammers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Char Char Binks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Char Char Binks said...

The voice resounds through Uncanny Valley.

Ann Althouse said...

"Nobody will take Alexa for human until she manages to say "absolutely" and "awesome" every other word ..."

You forgot the other "a" word, the one that's the biggest problem today: "amazing." Pronounced "a-maze-ing" with lots of "mmm" in the "m." The worst part is grown men saying it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Siri-- who is the President of the United States?"

"The President of the United States is Donald J. Trump"

I tried the same question and got: "The answer I found is Donald Trump."

Lewis Wetzel said...

I've seen some foreign documentaries on Netflix that I believe were redubbed into English using a robot voice.

Ann Althouse said...

"You can choose different voices--male, female, British, Australian, etc."

The ones that aren't the American female all sound much more robotic.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Robot or Idiocracy. Those are your choices.

Original Mike said...

"I tried the same question and got: "The answer I found is Donald Trump.""

You need to turn up the 'Respect' level on your Siri.

My Siri says "Not Hillary Clinton".

Lewis Wetzel said...

Beware false dichotomies!
There is no reason why can't have a robot idiocracy. We are nearly there now.

rhhardin said...

Amazing is amazing in French.

Krumhorn said...

Siri literally avoids the word “literally”. That’s a blessing. Two millennial young ladies literally live in my house. I mean literally.

-Krumhorn

tcrosse said...

The word "incredible" is overused by the sort of people who overuse "awesome". Kids today.

Krumhorn said...

My lady Australian-voiced Siri also doesn’t say bah-eeee. Another blessing even if she literally doesn’t know if she’s wearing a cute skirt.

- Krumhorn

Freeman Hunt said...

I had a friend burst into laughter when she heard me speaking to the phone for speech-to-text. She said, "It never occurred to me that you didn't have to talk like a robot to do that, that you could just talk normally." She found this realization hilarious.

I think a lot of people people start talking to their phones the way their talk to them because we are used to doing that with people to some extent.

wholelottasplainin' said...

Freeman Hunt said...
I had a friend burst into laughter when she heard me speaking to the phone for speech-to-text. She said, "It never occurred to me that you didn't have to talk like a robot to do that, that you could just talk normally." She found this realization hilarious.

**********

Years ago in Kyoto, it was entertaining to see Japanese people talking on public telephones and bowing again and again to the unseen party on the other end.

rhhardin said...

John Wayne School a elocution.

rhhardin said...

May 17 is diphthong day, a public holiday in Australia.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

"I tried the same question and got: "The answer I found is Donald Trump.""

Sorry, not Siri, Professor--our bad-- it was Alexa.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=slO0Uzk6u_w

(ps: not us in the vid)

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

loop that vid!

wholelottasplainin' said...

rhhardin said...
May 17 is diphthong day, a public holiday in Australia
**************

Myself, I'm waiting for the American Chemical Society to declare Phenolphthalein Day or Polyethylene Terephthalate Day.

Or for cultural anthropologists to declare Autochthonous Day.

Bilwick said...

Anything but Uptalk or the Vocal Fry.

gilbar said...

Cartoons don't demand star pay, they sound and look human - which are you going to use?
well, on the upside, a cartoon isn't going to sue you
but, on the downside, a cartoon isn't going to get on the casting couch... yet

Crazy World said...

O/T - nice link to Althouse regarding Joey announcement by Clarice at American Thinker today. Bravo!!

sinz52 said...

Google's new Duplex Assistant sounds so lifelike that it can telephone businesses for you to make appointments--and the person at the other end doesn't know she's talking to a machine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5VN56jQMWM
(start at 0.40 or so)

Reminds me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This young boy started to admire Data the android so much that he started to emulate Data: talk like Data and even act like Data.

Brian McKim and/or Traci Skene said...

When giving my phone number over the phone I intentionally affect the robot voice. I have never had anyone ask me to repeat any numbers since I started the practice. No grouping according to area code, no pause before or after the exchange, each number is given its due. It has saved me minutes over the years.

Anonymous said...

(Can Calculon be far behind?)

So Google's Duplex Assistant passes the Turing Test?

Narr
Shouldn't this be bigger news?

stlcdr said...

Having a smart phone doesn’t make you smart.

Likewise with having access to Siri, Alexia, or goodness knows what. They will tell you what you need to hear.

Also, who wants to be told things by a snotty nosed Brit, even if it is a robot? (British robots are the worst kind).

madAsHell said...

Why am I suddenly channeling Phillip K. Dick?

How do I detect the android??

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

when we've finally had enough:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgkyrW2NiwM

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

hmmmm-- curious

Alexia
definition: the inability to see words or to read, caused by a defect of the brain.Also called word blindness.Compare with dyslexia.

Fernandistein said...

Also, who wants to be told things by a snotty nosed Brit, even if it is a robot?

Asking for a friend.

Limited Perspective said...

Is the gay voice as obvious in Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Russian, Arabic, Bengali, Punjabi/Lahnda, as it is in English?

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

we've got this app called Sari-- great for finding 7-11s and Tandoori restaurants

Fen said...

I remember waiting tables at college, walked up behind a table of two gays customers talking in a normal voice. Soon as they noticed they weren't along they switched over to their faggoty chalky bitch voices.

This too will pass. Except for all you technophobic bigots! ;)

Robots are people too, ya know.

n.n said...

Mimics. Robots that mimic humans. Adult women who mimic young girls. Politicians who mimic diversity. Cargo cults that mimic science. Ethics that mimics religion. What's your choice?

n.n said...

Is the gay voice as obvious in Spanish, Chinese, ...

It varies on a transgender spectrum with a masculine and feminine bias, but it is likely that some language vocalization and syntax is more transgender friendly than others.

Birches said...

People on YouTube tutorials talk the same way. It drives me nuts.

JAORE said...

I think I'll emulate Robbie the Robot (thus giving away my age) by starting all remarks with a series of clicking sounds.

MayBee said...

One thing I would ask about the voiceover you heard would be this: was it *supposed* to be Siri or Alexa doing the voiceover? I've seen some ads like that. I think there's one for a car company.

Bilwick said...

"I remember waiting tables at college, walked up behind a table of two gays customers talking in a normal voice. Soon as they noticed they weren't along they switched over to their faggoty chalky bitch voices."

This differs from my experience, where a Gay guy will speak in what would be considered a "normal" way, without any affected or stereotyped mannerisms, yet once joined by other Gays, immediately starts to act "faggy," with the lisp and everything. Weird.