The Voicebot Chronicles: KQED Interactive Series

Date Created

2020

Project Team Size

5

Skills Used

Speech-Enabled Interaction, Voice User Interface, SSML, Sound Design, Audio Processing, Audio Editing, Script Development

The Voicebot Chronicles is a groundbreaking interactive series about navigating a world where humans are increasingly talking with machines - and machines are talking back.

2020 is an exciting time to see how things are measuring up against the sci-fi we grew up with. There aren’t many jetpacks around, but there are plenty of robots. And they talk - a lot.

But if you’ve ever felt misunderstood by a voicebot, you are not alone. For me this brings up some questions: How well do we really want to be understood by machines; and how well do they have to know us in order to understand what we want? Why does it feel so different to speak to a voicebot and what do we expect to hear back?

To explore these ideas, Chloe Veltman and I have been collaborating on The Voicebot Chronicles. The Voicebot Chronicles is an experiment; you might think of it as an interactive podcast. It features both in-depth reporting and interactivity, and can be experienced using Alexa or Google Assistant.

You don’t just listen to The Voicebot Chronicles, you also are a part of it. Chloe Veltman interviews Dimitri Kanevsky, a research scientist at Google, who lost his hearing at a young age and creates speech recognition technology to enable conversations for the deaf or hard of hearing. Then, you get to test the voicebot’s ability to understand you when you speak challenging words. Learn what it takes to have a good conversation when Chloe interviews Kathy Pearl, Head of Conversation Design Outreach at Google. Then test it out by having your own conversation with your voicebot.

To play The Voicebot Chronicles on Alexa, say “Alexa, open The Voicebot Chronicles.”
Amazon Store Link

On Google Assistant, say “Hey Google, talk to The Voice Bot Chronicles.”
Google Assistant Directory

Be prepared to talk, and remember: you might not always be understood.
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