A friend of mine sent me a link to the site www.celebritiescallyou.com (not a link, because I don’t think it’s a good way to spend 4 bucks). After listening to several of the “sample” messages and poking around the forms, I remembered train station in Russia. St Petersburg one had a system like that — pre-recorded words and phrases stitched together on the fly, and then played back for the public.
Except there it’s done with great care, and for the benefit of the public. Professional voice-actress records all pieces with appropriate intonations, so when computer decides to turn something like “May I have your attention please. Express train number 2 will be departing from platform 4 in 10 minutes”, individual pieces (greeting, type of train, number, will be departing from platform, etc) fit almost flawlessly, with just a few barely noticeable mismatches here and there, and tiny pauses between some words.
End result? Clear and effective communication.
Here it’s done crudely. I suppose my friend was right — for someone like Paul Sr recording 20+ names (ones you can select from the drop-down) is probably too boring, too tedious and too exhausting. Which in turn creates awful feeling of awkwardness and inorganically sounding phrase once everything is thrown together.
So… Do use robots for announcements for the public transportation (sorry, NYC, I don’t care about “the character of the subway”, I just need to hear clearly what the next stop is, while subway engineer is having pizza and soda while trying to announce the next stop). But don’t fall for “Robots speaking with celebrity voices call you”. It’s not worth $4. And no, Paul Sr will never even know of your existence.
The only place where such technology is appropriate, is when Target offers you pre-recorded wake-up call by some celebrity, without pay, and without pretending it is individualized. Kinda.