A Relative of ‘Siri’: The Voder

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While commuting between New York and New Jersey one evening, I tuned into the radio station 93.9 NYC as they started a technology portion of the show. The theme was language, and the first story was on using an translating app to navigate China (linked below), and the second was on this odd contraption called ‘the Voder’. Introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair, ‘The Voder’ was created by Homer Dudley and produced by the Bell Telephone Laboratory. This machine synthesized the first electrical human speech by producing the acoustic components of our speech. A woman ‘works’ the machine almost like a piano to control the various components of the Voder that allows it to ‘talk’. It  even sings “Auld Lang Syne” (a song that many of us today can’t even sing the lyrics to), which I find amazing, but at the same time creepy. Although this technology may seem dated compared to our ‘Siri’ and apps that can produce electronic language so fluidly and accurately, this was an important and interesting step forward in the realm of artificial language production. I wonder what amazing things we will invent today that will improve the communication and interaction of (or completely frighten) our children.

Listen to the story on ‘The Voder’ Here: http://www.wnyc.org/story/the-voder-the-first-machine-to-produce-human-speech/

Translation in Apps Story: http://www.wnyc.org/story/finding-a-pedicure-in-china-using-cutting-edge-translation-apps

Photo taken from : https://120years.net/the-voder-vocoderhomer-dudleyusa1940/