Saturday, July 19, 2003

Do you really want to know what your pet is thinking, though?

Meowlingual and Bowlingual. As only the Japanese can do it. Voice recognition software for animals.

On Friday, I found myself in the recording studio of a company called Adsound, which was offering 70,000 won (about $53 at current rates) for native English speakers to come in and read off a list of names and numbers for 20-40 minutes. This I gladly did, making quite a few mistakes along the way. The Adsound techs were very tolerant, though.

"That's OK; please start again from item 15."

"That's OK; please try to give a longer pause between each item on the list. Please."

"Please read at a more natural speed." (We won't talk about how galling it is for non-native speakers to dictate what's "natural.")

In the end, I was told I'd done a better job (and finished faster) than other foreigners who'd come in that day.

Small comfort.

You see, what made my pubes curl and uncurl in frustration was that a large part of the list included numbers that looked like cell phone numbers. I'd printed my script out much earlier in the week, and saw immediately there would be problems if Adsound wanted the numbers read a specific way. Here's a sample:


Notice all those "z"s? What was THAT all about?

Having printed the list out Tuesday, I sent an email to Adsound that same evening, asking questions like, "Do I read the hyphens?" and, "Do I read the zeros as 'zero' or 'oh,' or does it even matter?" and, "What are these damn 'z's?"

No reply.

So I deliberately arrived a half hour early on Friday to ask someone what this was about. Turned out the zeros were to be read as "oh," and the "z" represented a zero to be read as "zero."

Since I'd received no reply before Friday's session, I was unprepared for this (this sort of shit is typical in Korea, where so much is unnecessarily impromptu).

So these numbers


were to be read as:

"oh-zero-oh-three-six-six-four-five-zero-zero," and

At this point, you might be asking yourself what sort of dung-eating asswipe would EVER in his right mind read phone numbers out in this stupid manner. You'd be right to ask. But the answer (which leads us, kind of, back to this post's topic) is that Adsound is helping develop VOICE RECOGNITION SOFTWARE. In other words, the crazy numbers are there to try and throw the software for a loop during beta testing.

So, somewhere out there, software is being developed that will, after a few trials, immediately recognize my voice. I like this.

It was fun doing studio work. I hope to do more of it. A lot of foreigners here have made it into Korean studios to record vocab for English-language learning packets (think: CDs accompanying textbooks). Some foreigners, if their Korean is impeccable (and mine isn't), make it onto Korean TV.

I'd love to act in a Korean commerical, but I'd probably scare people away from the product. Hee hee.

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