Odd Thoughts: Automated understanding

A damaged microphone on my iPhone gave me some insight into the current state of automated voice recognition.

I took the phone in to the geniuses at Apple – I’m not being facetious, that’s what they call themselves.

I don’t know about “genius,” but they did seem to have a handle on what they were doing.

Except they couldn’t fix the microphone. So they offered to replace the whole phone for the cost of fixing the mic. Cool.

But when I got the work order, it quoted the full price of a replacement phone. So I called the genius store to ask what’s up with that.

The geniuses don’t answer their phone. A computer does.

It isn’t a “Press one for English…” kind of computer. The Apple genius computer tries to have a conversation.

It’s a clever idea, but…

Upon being invited to speak freely, I explained my situation. However, every time I said “replacement phone,” the voice on the other end of the line offered to replace my phone.

“No,” I explained, “I don’t want a replacement phone…”

And the voice offered to replace my phone.

So I tried again.

“I’m already getting a replacement phone,” I said.

And the voice offered to replace my phone.

I started sounding like I was explaining how fish swim to a four-year-old.

The carefully exaggerated enunciation of short words in short phrases did nothing to aid the computer in understanding my plight.

But instead of flat-out offering to replace my phone, this time I got detailed instructions on how to have my phone replaced.

One small step for a man…

So I simply asked to speak to someone about the indicated charge, adding no particulars.

And the voice asked me for particulars.

I said it was about a bill… and got contact information for the genius’s accounting department.

When I finally uttered a sentence that included the words “real human being” I was transferred to a live body, who set my mind at ease about the work order, and commiserated with me over the automated voice.

“We haven’t got all the bugs out yet,” he said.

I should have responded, “I feed chickadees through the winter and they eat the bugs in my garden the rest of the year.”

But not as fast on my feet as that computer, I just said, “Yah,” as if I understood.


Just Posted

PHOTOS: Charity Langley car show starts tradition of caring for people with cancer

Ken Johnson wanted an event that to feature his late friend’s vehicle, and it grew into a car show.

Self-guided Langley mural walk first of many new tourism experiences

Brochures are available for visitors and residents who want to check out some Langley City wall art.

UPDATED: Langley’s downtown business entity given 10-year extension

Langley City’s businesses can strategize future after new BIA bylaw was approved, president says.

VIDEO: Geocaching attracted adventure seekers to new Langley City event

Dozens of teams came out to discover a mix of art and nature during a new treasure hunt.

LETTER: Hat obnoxious, manager not bigoted

One Langley Advance letter writer takes exception to another’s comments about an MAGA hat incident.

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

SilverStar officially opens Gondola

The brand-new gondola is now offering scenic rides for visitors on SilverStar Mountain Resort.

VIDEO: Man climbs crane in Abbotsford

Police, fire called to deal with climber last night

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

Drawing on decades of research — the report lists 50 pages of citations

Most Read