M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Sunday, July 16, 2006  

Talk to Me

There are two possible setups for this story. The first one goes like this:

Back when I left the radio show and was deciding to make a go of it as a freelancer, I wasn't proud. I would take any gig at all, pretty much. It didn't even necessarily have to have anything to do with writing. For instance, I once participated in a research study for 75 bucks. It wasn't anything embarrassing. Basically all I had to do was sit in front of a computer and speak certain numbers and phrases into a digital recorder for an hour. As I understand it, what they were doing was collecting samples of speaking voices and then feeding those into some database or whatever in order to better refine voice-recognition software. I did this two years ago, and a couple of weeks ago they sent me a letter asking me to do it again.

Setup number two.

A few weeks ago, I was riding with Trash in her car. She pressed a button on her rearview mirror. The next thing I know, the radio had gone silent and there was a female God-voice issuing to us from the speakers.

"Your car is talking," I told Trash. I'd never seen her using her OnStar system before. She quickly shushed me, for reasons that quickly became apparent.

After a brief series of voice instructions from Trash, the God-voice was ready to dial whatever phone number Trash dictated. Or so it claimed. What happened instead was that Trash read off her mom's phone number. The God-voice read it back, with only three or four digits changed. Trash repeated the number, more loudly and slowly this time. That time the God-voice only got two numbers wrong. Before long Trash was embroiled in a full-on shouting match with the God-voiced gremlin that lives in her mirror. She claimed to me afterward that Midwestern non-accents are the hardest for voice recognition software to decipher. And I'm sure my increasingly loud cackles didn't help it any.

"I'll just call Mom from home," Trash finally said.

"Does this happen to you a lot?" I asked.

"All the time," she said. And of course by now we were home.

So naturally, when I got this recent invitation to participate in a study that would help improve voice recognition software, Trash didn't even ask me how much it paid. "You're doing it," she said.

I see now that I just should have gone with the second setup all along.

So, again, I get this a couple of weeks ago to participate in a voice study. Some guy calls me on the phone and reminds me of my participation in the previous study, then asks me a bunch of questions. The last of which is, "Do you speak with a foreign accent?" I think that's something you probably could have figured out yourself there, Sparky.

The call came during M. Small's dinner one evening, so it wasn't convenient for me to write down all the information at the time. That's why I was glad to hear they'd be sending me a confirmation letter with the time, date, and address of my appointment. Sure enough, that piece of paper came in the mail a couple of days later.

Last Friday, the day of my appointment, I had it all worked out. I'd told my boss that I was cutting out at 3:00 for "an appointment." And so I did. By the time I got down to the elevator, I figured, what the hey? It's a nice day. I have a half hour. It can't be more than twenty blocks. I might as well walk.

An additional advantage to this plan was that Trash was also working downtown that day, and we'd driven together. So I figured that by leaving her car where we'd parked it in the ramp by our buildings, she could come pick me up if my appointment went long and she finished before I did.

Now, obviously, you're waiting to hear why walking instead of driving turned out to be such a dumb idea. I'm not saying it wasn't mind you, but in the end it wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference.

More on that later this week.

posted by M. Giant 7:47 PM 3 comments


cliff hangers in a blog?? c'mon! Tell us about the walk

By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 17, 2006 at 5:39 AM  

OK, it's "later this week" now.

Are you going to tell us what happened??

By Anonymous Anonymous, at July 22, 2006 at 5:01 AM  

I have to say that I am from the West (the land of "no accent." No, really), and my aunt's OnStar NEVER understands her. It's hysterical, actually. Something like this:

Aunt: Five
God-like voice: Five
A: Four
GLV: Zero
A: Clear
GLV: Zero
A: Clear
GLV: Clear
A: Five
GLV: Eight
A: Clear
GLV: Cleared
A: Five
GLV: Five
A: Four
GLV: Four
A: One
GLV: One
A: Four
GLV: Eight
A: Clear

I'm not even remotely kidding. It's insane.

By Blogger DeAnn, at July 29, 2006 at 5:30 PM  

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