From the "I like my robots where I can hear them" department:
IBM has just been granted a patent for "generating paralinguistic phenomena via markup in text-to-speech syntheses." What's that? Computerized voices in everything from GPS to automated ticketing systems will be getting a little more... human.
[Im]perfecting robot speech
Andy Aaron, of the IBM project group that came up with the advancement, told The Telegraph that their goal isn't to fool anyone, but to ease people's often frustrating interactions with monotone automated systems. "When you are on the telephone on an automated service helping you fix your computer or buy insurance, this could make the difference between being a happy customer or hanging up and canceling a service," he said.
Big [Blue] Brother?
According to the Telegraph, IBM's new system will be capable of verbal prodding along the lines of throat clearing to get attention and "shh" to, well, shush people talking over instructions. It'll also pause for dramatic effect or cough. And according to Business Week, IBM has hired actors to record hundreds of emotive expressions for the system to use. No word yet on whether it will yawn at boring stories on long car trips or if it knows the phrase "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."
A more human robot voice paired with advanced voice and emotion-recognition systems could be helpful. Imagine teens' reaction to a combination of the smart key discussed here and a navigation system's voice that sounds like their mom. Yeesh.