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Old 05-08-2009, 04:47 PM   #1
grooks
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Amazon's Kindle can't say "Obama"

Stumbled across this article and found it amusing. Also, the type of things people will write an article about.

http://tech.yahoo.com/blogs/null/141596
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:08 PM   #2
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AWWWKKK...now that is a bit of a gaff for sure!
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:16 PM   #3
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I don't see the story
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:35 PM   #4
brecklundin
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here ya go Andy:

Quote:
There are the usual technology bugs, and then there are high-tech embarrassments that are way out of the ordinary. This one is perhaps the strangest quirk I've heard of since reading the story of a user whose bracelet with a magnetic clasp was tricking her notebook into thinking the lid was closed, but this one's far more humiliating for the manufacturer than a little jewelry snafu. Namely: Amazon's vaunted Kindle can't properly pronounce the name of the President of the United States.

That's a bit of a problem when you're positioning your product as a replacement for newspapers -- where coverage of the President is a daily event -- and touting its read-aloud system as well.

The New York Times (no stranger to writing about the Prez) says that the name "Barack Obama," when read aloud by the Kindle's computerized text-to-speech system, sounds something like "Brack Alabama."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos laughed about the gaffe, calling it "unfortunate," but the company has nonetheless hustled out a fix via its text-to-speech partner Nuance, which promises to correct the pronunciation of the name. That patch will be delivered wirelessly to Kindles automatically in the near future, if it hasn't already.

No word, however, on how the Kindle handles the pronunciation of the words "Ahmadinejad," "Schwarzenegger," "Guantanamo," or "nuclear."

Of course, the Kindle hardly marks the first time Obama's name has given someone trouble. For your Friday afternoon amusement, take a trip back to 2004, when Obama was a brand new kid on the political block, when David Letterman offered the inevitable "Top Ten Ways to Mispronounce Barack Obama." Kindle's unique spin on the name, alas, doesn't make the list....
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Old 05-08-2009, 09:50 PM   #5
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I think the embarrassment here is with colleagues of the article writer.

He seems clueless about what the current state of technology can do on a consumer budget, and with light weight as a competing design goal. I am sure his co workers must be in full "I don't even know this guy" mode. I sure would be.
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Old 05-08-2009, 09:55 PM   #6
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Kindle also can't pronounce "hatchling" and pronounces "bow" only one way ("boe"), whether you're talking about the arrow-throwing device, the front of a ship, or the action indicating formal respect.

I suspect that it mostly uses a phoneme-based pronounciation system. It must be pretty sophisticated, but that would explain why it runs into trouble on some fairly common (in my reading, at least) words that would be *easy* (I mean, "hatchling"?) if it were using a word-based pronunciation system.
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Old 05-08-2009, 09:57 PM   #7
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Nuance's text-to-speech pronounciation dictionary is lousy. I own another device that uses it (Victor Reader Stream) and while I have gradually adjusted to its quirks, it does occasionally come up with some hilariously bad pronunciations of what I had thought would be relatively common English words (global rhymes with cobble according to Nuance).
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Old 05-08-2009, 10:04 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phogg View Post
I think the embarrassment here is with colleagues of the article writer.

He seems clueless about what the current state of technology can do on a consumer budget, and with light weight as a competing design goal. I am sure his co workers must be in full "I don't even know this guy" mode. I sure would be.
Wow, over react much? The goof is a simple tweak of their sound-ex algorithm nothing more. Still it's a funny thing. Such things have been know to accidentally happen intentionally.
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Old 05-08-2009, 11:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brecklundin View Post
Wow, over react much? The goof is a simple tweak of their sound-ex algorithm nothing more. Still it's a funny thing. Such things have been know to accidentally happen intentionally.
It is not the algorithm that gets fixed. There is a supplemental dictionary of hard to pronounce words that is included with TTS engines. They simply add a new word to the dictionary with the appropriate sound.

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Old 05-08-2009, 11:27 PM   #10
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It is not the algorithm that gets fixed. There is a supplemental dictionary of hard to pronounce words that is included with TTS engines. They simply add a new word to the dictionary with the appropriate sound.

Dale
oh, sure...that makes more sense. Last sound-ex I wrote was, heck, in like 1990...hahaha...we had a small lexicon so never needed supplementary lookup tables.
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Old 05-09-2009, 10:39 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brecklundin View Post
Wow, over react much? The goof is a simple tweak of their sound-ex algorithm nothing more. Still it's a funny thing. Such things have been know to accidentally happen intentionally.
Oh wow, make statements that ignore aspects of problems that are complicated much?

Personal names are generally pronounced differently, by different people and families even though they have the same spelling.. This is the usual case not the exception. The author of this tripe was lambasting the Kindle production team because their device doesn't get proper names right.

Tell you what brecklundin, I'll get 100 people at random of the street, and make a roster of their names. Then you can introduce each one of them on a stage - cold as the kindle has to do - and then they will give the audience their actual names and we will see how many YOU get right. The audience will have fun.

I spent years in the military and there is always a show like this every time someone unfamiliar with the men gives roll call.

Last edited by Phogg; 05-09-2009 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 05-09-2009, 04:32 PM   #12
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The first day I had my K2 I tried TTS with an article in the Washington Post and had a giggle at the pronunciation of Obama. There are a lot of words the TTS doesn't get quite right but that was the first one I heard.
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Old 05-09-2009, 05:30 PM   #13
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Not to mention that English is probably the worst language for having inconsistent pronunciation. In many languages, even proper names from that country are pronounced according to fairly strict rules, which would be easy to program for. English not only has weird pronunciations for common words, but a plethora of words imported from other languages with different rules, including proper names.
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Old 05-09-2009, 08:30 PM   #14
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Not to mention that English is probably the worst language for having inconsistent pronunciation. In many languages, even proper names from that country are pronounced according to fairly strict rules, which would be easy to program for. English not only has weird pronunciations for common words, but a plethora of words imported from other languages with different rules, including proper names.
yeah, you can say that again.

Cow
Mow
Sew
few

the only words that rhyme of the 4 are Mow ans Sew.
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Old 05-10-2009, 01:45 AM   #15
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