We get so used to hearing the same message on the train everyday or on the tube in rush hour. It’s easy to zone out. Every time you fly, the cabin crew ask for your full attention to a message you’ve heard hundreds of times before and regular travellers on express coaches probably know the safety messages off by heart.
Sometimes though, these messages are accompanied with the sound of a real human voice. I remember travelling on a train up north and we had come to a standstill at one of the stations. Next thing we knew, the conductor was giving us a blow by blow account on why we were delayed and how long we’d be. It made a change from the normal, ‘we apologise for the delay to this service’, which gives no clues as to what is going on.
A similar thing happened when I was travelling on a coach to London. Each journey begins with an automated safety message but on this occasion the friendly driver intervened. He introduced himself and welcomed us on board like we were coming to a nice restaurant for dinner. He then said he’d be getting us there as safely, quickly and comfortably as possible. Immediately I felt much happier about our journey. What a difference it makes to have some engagement from the driver of the vehicle. It was interesting to note that many people said an enthusiastic thank you to him as they got off at the end. He was one of those people who seemed to really enjoy being nice to other people.
So, with the development of speech recognition software and more and more automated messages it begs the question – can we ever replace the human voice? From my experience, I would argue not. Automated messages can replace most words in the English language and many other languages in fact, but I don’t think they can capture the natural expression and intonation in the human voice.
What do you think?