Monday, September 25, 2006

"ExcuseClub" - No New AV - Voice for Instruction

We make great strides toward AI - Artificial Intelligence, but cannot imagine AV - Artificial Voice. Keep this in mind when someone proposes "scalable" instruction that eliminates human voices. No one even seems to expect to develop recording and playing equipment that reproduces voice or music undetectably different from listening to a "live" performance in the same room. Finally, I'm told that several studies have shown that the quality of the audio is one of the most significant factors in determining learners' satisfaction with forms of online or distance education. I believe it.

This posting was prompted by the "ExcuseClub" an almost-throwaway idea in "I, Robot" a futuristic science fiction short story by Cory Doctorow. In the story, a highly powerful - beyond current Internet - service links those who need audio-delivered, authentic-sounding excuses with those who can imitate voices. This idea is probably scariest to people with teenage children. Fortunately, mine are older. However, I found it especially intriguing in this view of a technologically advanced future that the author could not imagine "Artificial Voice" to go along with Artificial Intelligence. See excerpts below.

I think Doctorow may be right. In highly successful popular movies created by computer animation, well-known actors provide the voices. No one has yet found the need for a vocal version of the Turing test to see if people can tell the difference between computer-generated voice and remotely delivered or recorded voice.


"Welcome to ExcuseClub! There are 43 members on the network this morning. You have five excuses to your credit. Press one to redeem an excuse —" She toned one. "Press one if you need an adult —" Tone. "Press one if you need a woman; press two if you need a man —" Tone. "Press one if your excuse should be delivered by your doctor; press two for your spiritual representative; press three for your case-worker; press four for your psycho-health specialist; press five for your son; press six for your father —" Tone. "You have selected to have your excuse delivered by your father. Press one if this excuse is intended for your case-worker; press two for your psycho-health specialist; press three for your principal —" Tone. "Please dictate your excuse at the sound of the beep. When you have finished, press the pound key."

"She's good at doing grown-up voices. She was a good part of the network. When someone needed a mom or a social worker to call in an excuse, she was always one of the best. Talented. She goes to school with my kid sister and I met them one day at the Peanut Plaza and she was doing this impression of her teachers and I knew I had to get her on the network."

Excerpts from "I, Robot," by Cory Doctorow, online at "Infinite Matrix,"

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