Science News

Computers That Sound Human

Sun, 7th Oct 2001

Part of the show The Body Clock & Circadian Rhythms

People respond better to computer voices that mirror their own personalities, according to Nature this week. Anyone can tell the difference between a synthesised voice (one generated by a computer) and a human voice. As far as most people are concerned one computer voice sounds much the same as another and they are all immensely annoying! But according to communications experts in California, people react differently to different computer voices - even if they don't realise they're doing it. Extroverts like loud, fast computer voices while introverts prefer softer, shyer ones. Apparently even if you know you're listening to a computer voice, subconsciously part of your brain is fooled into thinking it's a human being. Salesmen marketing products on the web could take advantage of this human weakness - voices could be tailored to manipulate customers. It sounds unethical, but salesmen have been manipulating people for decades - this is just another advertising trick. But the new findings will have some benefits - it might be possible to have your computer's voice tailor-made to suit you. This will be a great asset to visually impaired web users.


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