Friday, December 4, 2009

The Perils of Machine Voice Recognition: A Case Study

I have a few posts on the back burner here, but I've been busy so I'm just going to let those stew while I slap something from the refrigerator right on the front burner and serve it up so that everyone doesn't get too hungry. This is the grilled cheese sandwich of blog posts, or possibly the 5-layer dip of blog posts, if your 5-layer dip has a "hot" component (doesn't everyone's?). Metaphors!

I use Google Voice™ to keep in touch with my family members and friends in the states, and one nice feature of this service is that it transcribes any voice mails that I receive so that I can get the gist of the message before listening to it. According to Google Voice™, this is the voicemail that my sister left me yesterday.

Hey Jonathan, I just wanted to call and then i grandma's and if you see if you can since we are no one's she's kind of hurt. Kind of this to you today about the bye. Yeah, I'd, clean up, coming out about but I just wanted to remind you. Okay, call me back if you get this. I don't think voices. We had a chance. Lee, but I just Sat. Okay love you bye alright.

Reading this transcription, you might think that my grandmother is hurt, and that my sister wants me to remind me to "clean up, coming out." And then there's the bit about the "voices" and the "chance", which makes it sound like she's trapped in a caved-in coal mine. Lee and Sat, people I've never met before, also make cameo appearances.

In real life, the voicemail was about the time my sister and I cleaned up dog vomit while at my grandmother's house:

For those of you who don't want to listen to the clip, she says at the end, "I don't think Google Voice™ will be able to translate what I just said."

So, if you've just watched 2001: A Space Odyssey (like I did last night) and are concerned about the coming computer menace, I say to you: humanity: we've still got it!