I have road rage issues. I tend to get very frustrated by traffic and being lost; unfortunately, I live in New Jersey and have what amounts to a completely inverted sense of direction. So it’s not uncommon to find myself stuck in traffic in a strange place while trying to calm my frustrations…and then the GPS pipes up with a “RECALCULATING” and suddenly I am plotting the highest point from which I can drop the evil beast of a device.
Luckily, I am not alone. According to CNN, it’s fairly common to have a negative reaction to GPS-voice. Basically, while GPS devices and computers are capable of speaking, they lack emotion, so we don’t connect with them (hence the road rage when the poor GPS chimes in at the wrong moment).
Apparently, making the slightly robot-tinged voice sound more human is quite a bit of work:
(according to the article) computers that have lots of voice data to pull from can sound, at times, nearly human.
But the issue is that not every computer has an entire server farm waiting to process every sentence it would like to say.
Mobile phones and GPS devices, in particular, just don’t have enough computing power or storage space to thumb through mountains of voice files in order to sound as realistic as possible with current technology.
The result: Corners are cut in the name of workability, and some of the nuances of the spoken language are lost, said Gretton of TomTom.
The whole article goes on to explain the obstacles to teaching computers about nuance and emotion. It’s interesting stuff, but the most important takeaway: If you think your GPS is chastising you think again… Your GPS is NOT angry when it says it needs to reroute you because you missed a turn, it has to RECALCULATE, it’s just your own frustrations interpreting the voice a certain way.
Doesn’t mean I won’t be cursing the Garmin name and eyeing the nearest cliff next time I get lost though.