Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brits Forced to Adopt Bad American Accents to Use iPhone Features; Dick Van Dyke Repeatedly Cited

The Register (Biting the Hand That Feeds IT), November 19, 2008, Google tells the world how to talk; Received Pronunciation not received, Scots scotched by Bill Ray

Google's voice search is, it turns out, optimised for North American accents and has distinct problems understanding proper English as the BBC defines it - forcing English users to adopt the kind of dodgy accents not usually seen outside a karaoke night.

Google's iPhone application warns users that "Voice Search only works in English, and works best for North American English accents", as noted by Cult of Mac, but one doesn't expect to have to adopt an septic twang just to get an internet search completed - though that appears to be the case.

The Telegraph reports that a Scot asking for iPhone was offered searches for Sex instead, while a Welsh accent delivered "gorillas" and "kitchen sink". Even a Surrey accent failed, delivering "my sister"...

Clearly we can't sit by and watch our very language be attacked in this way, and must petition the BBC to create their own Voice Search application that refuses to respond to any sound containing so much as a hint of regional inflection.

Meanwhile we'll have to content ourselves with laughing at iPhone users as they attempt American accents that would make Dick Van Dyke look accomplished.


The Independent, November 19th, 2008, Cyberclinic: Computer says "Sorry, didn't catch that" by Rhodri Marsden

In the past few days, British iPhone users have been bellowing into their phones in a range of timbres and accents that make them sound like they're auditioning for a place at Jon Culshaw's Elementary School of Impressionism. That's because Google have just launched a Voice Search facility for their Google Mobile App; it senses when you lift the iPhone to your head, it beeps, awaits for search data to emerge from your mouth - like, I dunno, maybe "BNP postcode search" and then presents the results on the screen for you. That theoretically saves you approximately 10 seconds that you would have spent keying stuff in on-screen, although in practice it only works if you adopt the kind of ludicrous transatlantic accent deployed by TV chef Robert Irvine (oblique reference there, I know, but if you don't indulge in TV cooking shows as much as I do, just replace "Robert Irvine" with "Dick van Dyke".)


Just wanted to point out that the traditional Dick Van Dyke joke falls apart when you're talking about doing an American accent, because he actually has one. Being an American and all.

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