The deafening silence over eerie robot voices

Mar 19, 2019, 8:16 AM EDT
(Source: Web Summit/flickr)
(Source: Web Summit/flickr)

Robots haven’t been spared our innate tendency to anthropomorphize virtually anything. Clearly, they are being designed to resemble humans as closely as possible but are a long way to go. In this quest to humanize machines, a phase is marked by “the Great Convergence of Creepiness,” when the robot looks realistic but not realistic enough.

This eeriness in appearance has drawn scrutiny, but the uncannily, freakish voices of humanoid robots continue to evade any attention, let alone reactions. Kozminski University roboticist Aleksandra Przegalinska qualifies as an exception as she studies voices of chatbots, notes Wired.

One put-off with robot voices is the incongruence in tonality and context of what’s being said. Often, a short sentence finishes as a long one, leaving the listener with an expectation of something that’s not to follow.

Besides, the mechanics of gestures supposed to accompany the words coming out of a physical robot is shoddy. For example, the modules responsible to move the head or flash a smile are so poorly integrated that it never happens, or appear with a delay after the voice has already played.