And that someone is Richard Wilson, who is conducting an investigation for Channel Four (don’t laugh!) into those infuriating voice recognition software options that are supposed to make our lives easier:
In the TV programme, I try to book a cinema ticket. The computer asks me which film I’d like to see.
I tell it: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’
‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?’ it responds.
I repeat: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’
‘Johnny English Reborn?’ it asks.
I try once more: ‘The Adventures Of Tintin.’
It replies: ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin.’
‘No, we don’t,’ I say, before slamming down the phone in frustration.
Now, I know I have a Scottish accent but it is hardly broad. And I don’t think RADA would be too happy to think one of its students couldn’t make himself understood by such a thing.
I visited Martin Russell, a voice recognition expert, and he told me the system works best if it’s a voice or an accent it has heard before.
He said: ‘The computer has an expectation about how every word in its vocabulary will be pronounced. It builds that expectation by listening to recordings of lots of people speaking. If all of the recordings it hears are from people in the south-east of England, then it would expect you or any other user to speak as if you came from the south-east of England.’
So now it appears that this machine might even be racist, too.
And the ‘race’ of people who live in the South East of England is…?
Can we stop this casual bandying-about of the term? It cheapens real racism even faster than the grievance-peddlers and racemongers do!