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October 27, 2011 2:40 AM   Subscribe

Voice recognition technology don't do Scottish accents. Really! Apple's new iPhone voice recognition technology, Siri, is having trouble with the Scottish accent. It has trouble with simple phrases like can you dance for me? and boot your bawz and how many miles are there in ten kilometers? and create a remainder.
posted by twoleftfeet (62 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ha, I'm glad I checked the links before posting the Burnistoun lift sketch.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:46 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe if Scottish people learnt to speak correctly.
posted by seanyboy at 2:57 AM on October 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ach awa.
posted by pracowity at 3:05 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Groundskeeper Willie comedy sketch almost writes itself.
posted by Skeptic at 3:07 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


seanyboy: Maybe if Scottish people learnt to speak correctly.

I think you mean learned to speak correctly.
posted by Len at 3:10 AM on October 27, 2011 [12 favorites]


cf. 12 Angry Men:
Juror #10: Bright? He's a common ignorant slob. He don't even speak good English.
Juror #11: *Doesn't* even speak good English.
posted by Len at 3:11 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, Siri is more human-like than first thought?
posted by Thorzdad at 3:18 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's well beyond an accent, it's a dialect.

It recognized everything correctly when he was enunciating the words properly, even with the accent.
posted by unigolyn at 3:19 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's what you get for having a dislectic language!

(which would read, dets uot iu ghet for having a dislectic lengheg)
posted by elpapacito at 3:24 AM on October 27, 2011


Voice recognition also doesn't recognize certain types of voices. Like mine.

I speak very clear, relatively unaccented Midwestern American English, but I also have a voice that sounds like ... one of my friends put it very aptly when he said it sounds like my voice has been altered mechanically to protect my identity on a true crime show. All of my encounters with voice recognition technology have ended in tears, swearing and throwing things.

Increasingly, much to my fucking chagrin, there are companies that don't give the "multiple choice" keypad option on their automated customer service lines.

"Hello! Thank you for calling Cutsomer Servco! In order for us to serve you, please tell me your full name!"

"Emily. Kaplan."

"I'm sorry, I didn't understand you. Please say your first and last name."

(speaking slowly clearly, and loudly) "EMILY! KAPLAN!"




"I'm sorry, I didn't understand you. Please say your first and last name!"

(yelling) "E-M-I-L-Y. K-A-P-L-A-N!"

"Hello, Engarmew Kreplowkpin! Please recite your 45 digit account number!"

"9480...3526....694T..W134098...WS..0945600...0..87650982...0PO...3O0O5"


"...."

"...."

"I'm sorry, I didn't understand you. Please recite your 45 digit account number!"

"GO EAT A BOWL OF MAGNETS, YOU FUCKING STUPID MACHINE!"


"I'm sorry, I didn't understand you. Please recite your 45 digit account number."

*dashes phone to pieces on floor, cries in rage*
posted by louche mustachio at 3:28 AM on October 27, 2011 [36 favorites]


"Learnt" is perfectly correct.
posted by jwhite1979 at 3:30 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Learnt" is perfectly correct.

It's even spelt correctly.
posted by three blind mice at 3:37 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


jwhite1979: "Learnt" is perfectly correct.

Indeed it is, but not in this context. I learnt to read and write at school; I learnt how to change an oil filter when the mechanic showed me how to, &c. But learnt connotes past, digested knowledge. Whereas "Scottish people speaking correctly" is apparently an ongoing project, since none of us seemed to have mastered it yet. Hence learned.

It's even spelt correctly.
Ha!
posted by Len at 3:40 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was messing with Dragon Dictation on my iPad the other day. It worked fine for me, and even picked out most of the words when I sang a song in a strong westcountry accent. My five-year-old son, however, was completely unintelligible to it. He enunciates really well and has a fairly unremarkable middle-of-england accent. But something about his voice meant that the speech recognition didn't get even one word of what he was saying. I suspect it was fooled by the higher pitch of his voice. Speech recognition is a weird thing, because when it works you sort of expect it to hear you in the same way a human does. But then it does something weird for no obvious reason, and you suddenly realise you're basically talking to a vacuum cleaner.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:47 AM on October 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


What localisation choices to you get for Siri? I presumed there'd be a massive drop-down with hundreds of accents/dialects to choose from.
posted by kersplunk at 3:59 AM on October 27, 2011


Why do you think Scotty was always having trouble holding the Enterprise together? When he asked the Computer to increase inertial dampers, it fixed him a Romulan ale. When he asked for a Romulan ale, it vented atmosphere from Decks 5-8.

And we all know Star Trek technology is mostly Apple products.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:01 AM on October 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


They should let a Siri watch this a few dozen times.
posted by Harry at 4:09 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


What localisation choices to you get for Siri? I presumed there'd be a massive drop-down with hundreds of accents/dialects to choose from.

Not sure if handsets sent outside the U.S. have more options, but mine offers English in 3 flavors (United States, United Kingdom, Australia), German, and French.
posted by asciident at 4:15 AM on October 27, 2011


Long term impact: everyone starts talking funny to bend to the will of voice recognition technology.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 4:25 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wow, this presents an opportunity for Siri to be way more passive-aggressive than it already is:

I noticed you are from Leith. Would you like help with English translation?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:29 AM on October 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


A Scotsman was visiting Canada.

One day he saw a large brown animal with antlers.

"What's that?" he asked his host.

"That's a moose", came the reply.

"Hoots!" cried the Scotsman. "A moose that big! I canna believe it! The rats mun be like elephants!".
posted by unSane at 4:38 AM on October 27, 2011 [17 favorites]


I noticed you are from Leith. Would you like help with English translation?

I notice you're from Dundee, would you like me to call up your heroin dealer?
posted by atrazine at 4:44 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Hoots!" cried the Scotsman.

I notice you've not been in Scotland in the last 50 years.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 5:00 AM on October 27, 2011 [9 favorites]


I'm going to try Google Goggles to see if that's a doughnut or a meringue.
posted by liquidindian at 5:01 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


"GO EAT A BOWL OF MAGNETS, YOU FUCKING STUPID MACHINE!"
I have been working with computers for 40 years and I never heard this phase before. (Well, the second part, yes..)
Perfect. Thanks.
posted by MtDewd at 5:02 AM on October 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


A friend sent me this yesterday and at first I thought everyone in the balloon was Chinese.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:13 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hello, Engarmew Kreplowkpin! Please recite your 45 digit account number!

First they went to India and Bangladesh and hired massively underpaid interns at call centers, they saw it was not good.

Then they went to Silicon Valley, ordered the smartest PC with voice recognition, they saw it was not good.

At least they finally solved the problem, and rehired the people that was fired in the first place.

That's management for you: spending a lot of money while running in circles.
posted by elpapacito at 5:15 AM on October 27, 2011




Oops, didn't mean to put that in quotes.
posted by octothorpe at 5:22 AM on October 27, 2011


My old boss is from Glasgow. His accent was mostly under control, having lived in the States for years, but got thicker and thicker if he got angry. I would not recommend Siri for him.
posted by tommasz at 5:23 AM on October 27, 2011


Wifey and I just got Android phones, and the first thing Wifey asked for was a speech-to-text app. I was pleased to let her know that EVERYTHING that interacts with the keyboard can be speech-to-text. Her mind was blown.

I now use it on a regular basis, but it has slowly but fundamentally changed how I interact with the phone. I do my 'radio announcer' voice, usually only done in polite company for humor, but now it's for the phone's benefit because it understands that voice better. I leave very obvious silence between words, and I talk much slower than usual. I also hold my phone the way I only had seen people on reality TV shows doing: palm up and a discrete distance away from my face, my eyes staring at some distant unseen object.

I had been disappointed that it doesn't automatically add punctuation, but yesterday I had a revelation: I was texting my wife, so instead I said "leaving Carlton now comma be back in four and a half hours period". It worked, and I felt like I just had a minor breakthrough in deciphering how to communicate with aliens. It's also the same sort of enlightenment I've seen in people after I've shown them how to hold the control key on the keyboard to select multiple lines with the mouse, to which I usually roll my eyes over the simplicity; I'm sure there's plenty of people rolling their eyes at my phone revelation, due to the obviousness of the punctuation detail.

However, now this form of speaking has given me a new role to imagine: I'm sitting on a mid-century modern desk chair in a large corner office, unused Atomic ash-tray on my desk and a bottle of Maker's Mark on the sideboard, my three-piece suit impeccably fitted and unbelievably clean. I'm slowly and clearly dictating my every wishes to a beehive-haired young woman in a short skirt and kitty-eye glasses, who jots Gregg-method curly-cues in a little notebook, which she then turns into clean and accurate typed characters shortly thereafter. My EVO is now named Margie.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:33 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


But do they call me MacGregor the Siri user? No, they doont.

(Actually, it's almost magical how well it does work.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:38 AM on October 27, 2011


I notice you've not been in Scotland in the last 50 years.

It's a very old joke.
posted by unSane at 5:40 AM on October 27, 2011


Ah, Siri. You'll have had your tea?
posted by mippy at 5:53 AM on October 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Obligatory Robin Williams.
posted by Splunge at 5:54 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oops, NSFW on that Robin Williams video!
posted by Splunge at 5:55 AM on October 27, 2011


Mippy - is that you? Aye, well that'll be me, up the road.
posted by kcds at 6:23 AM on October 27, 2011


That "eleven" video is legendary in our family (being Scottish) so much so that if anyone even comes close to mentioning the word "eleven" anyone in the room will loudly call out "ELEVEN!" in some strange Scot's chorus.

Funnily enough the Windows 7 voice recognition works okay, and so do a few Android apps.
posted by NiteMayr at 6:48 AM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe if Scottish people learnt to speak correctly.

Maybe English people should learn to speak Scots correctly.

Seriously, my English teacher was a Scotsman who taught us in almost stilted RP, but broke into broad Scots swearing whenever he was irritated. Which, with a class of hormone-addled teenagers at his charge, was fairly often. Best. Teacher. Ever.
posted by Skeptic at 6:52 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


"GO EAT A BOWL OF MAGNETS, YOU FUCKING STUPID MACHINE!"

Pro Tip: some of these systems listen for profanity and other signs of frustration and will put a rep on the line if they hear them, so this might actually work.
posted by The Bellman at 6:57 AM on October 27, 2011


It took me six months to understand the local accent/dialect where I currently live in Scotland - and that was having moved from a different part of Scotland. I'm not going to judge Siri for failing as I did!
posted by Coobeastie at 7:06 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


some of these systems listen for profanity and other signs of frustration and will put a rep on the line if they hear them, so this might actually work.
posted by The Bellman


Only if it can understand you.
posted by 445supermag at 7:09 AM on October 27, 2011


Aye, if it's nae Scottish, it's CRAP.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:30 AM on October 27, 2011


Aww, it didn't do so badly! It's managing pretty well in the second video link there, although it flubs his first question.

I got a 4S this morning and haven't had a chance to play around with it too much yet, although it got passed around my office earlier and was doing about as well with Scottish accents as it is with my English one. This is a significant improvement over Apple's voice recognition of ten years ago, when you really did have to fake an American accent to get through 'tell me a joke'.

I'm also impressed with its ability to deal with Scottish place-names. So far it's happily recognised Benbecula, Arisaig, Comrie, Mauchline, Ardnamurchan, Auchtermuchty, and Milngavie (pronounced more like 'mull-GUY') and made a distinction between 'How many people live in Houston' and 'How many people live in Houston, Renfrewshire' (even if it thinks they're pronounced the same). It did fall down a bit when I asked it how many people live in Arrochar, which it interpreted as 'how many people live in para', but this redeemed itself for me when Wolfram Alpha then tried to convert 'number of people who have ever lived on Earth' to 'paragraphs' and sadly told me that 'people and paragraphs are not compatible'.
posted by Catseye at 7:40 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stop! Wait a minute Heir Postman! Bitte warte fur mich!

Waiting for delivery of my own Siri. We'll see if it can deal with my messed up use of language! Bwahahaha!

Oh. Wait. 2 year contract.

"Hel-lo Si-ri. Do-not-hurt-me."
posted by Goofyy at 7:43 AM on October 27, 2011


Bitte warte fur mich
what
posted by Namlit at 7:56 AM on October 27, 2011


I have a high-pitched voice and a bit of a deaf accent (I had speech therapy all through school). I'm getting my iPhone today but I don't hold out much hope that I'll be able to use Siri. I'll report back tomorrow.
posted by desjardins at 7:56 AM on October 27, 2011


Update: my co-worker just got a 4S. Apparently Siri also doesn't speak narcissistic gay Singaporean.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:18 AM on October 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


This reminds me of this hilarious German TV test of a new BMW, which didn't understand unless you addressed it with a Saxonian accent. Self-learning software next step.
posted by Namlit at 8:20 AM on October 27, 2011


I have a northern English accent - think the Starks from Game of Thrones (although Sean Bean is from the other side of the Pennines). Android has NO IDEA what I'm saying. It recognises my boyfriend's coarse Fife accent, but not mine.

I also have the dregs of a childhood speech impediment, mind, which probably doesn't help.
posted by mippy at 8:56 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perhaps Siri should be pointed at the Scots Wikipedia. Whether it's a bona-fide language of its own is debatable, but rather like Jamaican patois spoken by immigrants to the UK, Scots code-switch between English English and Scots English often.
posted by mippy at 8:58 AM on October 27, 2011


coarse Fife accent

Not quite - it's fine with my 'Sunday voice', but not with how I would speak after being back in Fife for a few days.
posted by liquidindian at 9:21 AM on October 27, 2011


They should have trained Siri on the Barbarian from Iain Banks' The Bridge.
posted by imperium at 9:53 AM on October 27, 2011


I used to talk at length with a very interesting Scottish woman at a coffee house I went to a lot.

After about six weeks and 10+ hours of conversation, I found out she was not Scottish after all, but congenitally partially deaf. "I get that all the time", she said.

This story does not surprise me, therefore.
posted by jamjam at 10:02 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh. Now I'm wondering if I've ever been mistaken for Scottish. People in Paris told me I spoke French with a Belgian accent instead of American. I'm not sure if that was a compliment; I hear that Belgians are considered to be kind of backward.
posted by desjardins at 11:04 AM on October 27, 2011


not really dealing with the Scottish accent, but funny enough to include regardless:

So a Scotsman goes to his first baseball game ever and has a hard time understanding the rules at first, but eventually understands that a big part of the game involves getting from one base to another without getting tagged out. So, when a batter is walked and starts ambling toward first, he stands up and screams, "Run, man, run!"

His American host tugs on his shirt. "Don't worry, Angus, he can't be tagged out because he didn't get a base hit--he got four balls."

Angus' eyes grow wide, and he screams even louder, "Walk with pride, man, walk with pride!"
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:39 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


As Veridian Dynamics taught us, all Scottish people have to do is have non-Scottish personal assistants speak to their iPhones for them.
posted by kmz at 2:51 PM on October 27, 2011


Maybe if Scottish people learnt to speak correctly.
posted by seanyboy at 10:57 AM on October 27


You should visit a few Glasgow pubs and tell them that. A fun evening is guaranteed!
posted by Decani at 4:08 PM on October 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm actually fluent in Tremblecock.
posted by Decani at 5:08 PM on October 27, 2011


relatively unaccented Midwestern American English

Sorry, mustache, no such thing as "unaccented" anything.
posted by readyfreddy at 2:15 AM on October 28, 2011


I've had some trouble with it, but it's worked better than I expected. I need to speak slowly and enunciate clearly. It didn't understand "Go to Facebook," but I figure it's just protecting me from myself.
posted by desjardins at 9:46 AM on October 28, 2011


Scots as a language has a long history and despite some cavilling by scholars of an older more Anglocentric era, it is now firmly recognised as a minority language. Anyone who's interested can look at the Dictionary of the Scots language and in particular at the history of the language down to 1700.

I'm gey scunnered wi this glaikit numpty:

Siri doesn't do Scottish? I'll gie ye a skelpit lug!

Scotland, the country land-attached to the north of England, still has English as its national language. While the Scots speak English, the dialect is different and the spoken word is widely considered to be more pronounced, with a unique 'Scottish twang', so to speak..

Zack Whittaker wad be nane the waur o a weel-skelped erse for scrieving sic havers.
posted by Flitcraft at 5:34 PM on October 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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