Speech Technology Magazine

 

Overheard/Underheard

Under-the-radar speech news
By Adam Boretz - Posted Apr 2, 2009
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It is a universal speech truth passed from generation to generation: When wielded by a fanatical madman, the power of text-to-speech (TTS) can be used for cruel and evil purposes. And never before has that adage been more clearly illustrated than by the CareerBuilder Anonymous Tip Giver.

From careerbuilder.com, the Anonymous Tip Giver (www.anonymoustipgiver.com) allows users to secretly create and send colleagues messages—anything from “And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you” to “The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking”—all via the magic of TTS. 

And while that may sound benign, the true horror of the Anonymous Tip Giver is in the free service’s method of delivery. Your personalized TTS tip is delivered by one of four nightmarishly surreal avatars, each framed in different office panoramas and gesticulating wildly. Users can select from:

• a balding, mustachioed executive who stands in front of his desk, purrs like a big cat, and wears a blue dress shirt from which two holes have been cut to reveal his nipples;

• a grinning salesman who reclines seductively on a white piano, waving and pounding at the keys with his bare feet;

• a samurai sword-wielding alligator-man, dressed in a shirt and power tie, who stands in front of a desk and growls, perhaps due to the fact he seems to have misplaced his pants; or

• a bloated, vacant-eyed she-zombie who laughs maniacally as she floats above the desk in her smoke-filled office.

Once the character has been selected, users can choose from six voices—three male and three female. They are then given the option to enter their messages into a text box, choose from a number of prescripted messages, such as Gum is the perfect segue between a tuna sandwich and a job interview, or call a preassigned phone number and record their own voice messages. All of this is then packaged as an e-card and sent off, ensuring that the recipient will be terrified and confused by such an other-worldly career tip from some anonymous fiend. And should the effort get someone fired, there’s even a link to the CareerBuilder site so the message originator can start a job search without delay.

I decided to send a tip to fellow editorial assistant Eric Barkin, who originally broke the Anonymous Tip Giver story at www.speechtechblog.com. After selecting the “Executive With Visible Nipples” avatar, I typed out my tip, converted it to speech, and sent it. A few moments later, a tortured cry rang out across the office and I knew instantly that TTS evil had been perpetrated.

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