Voice recognition is xenophobic

Voice recognition is now commonplace in customer service centers. Whether it be booking movie tickets, checking your bank balance, organizing flights or getting technical support, more often than not you get to talk to a computer. Personally, I’m fine with that, especially if the wait to talk to a human operator is 30 minutes – I’ll take my chances with the machine.

But I’ve noticed that voice recognition is rather xenophobic. It just doesn’t like foreigners. I’m a Brit. I have a British accent. But when I speak to a VR system, I get locked in an endless cycle of "I’m sorry I didn’t understand that, I think you said ‘Buy ten tickets to Azerbijahn’, is that correct?"

For a while I was stumped by this predicament. I spoke clearly, enunciating each syllable like a stage thespian, but my attempts fell on deaf ears. Then in sheer desperation, I tried my closest approximation of an American accent, which sounds like Hugh Grant impersonating John Wayne. Nevertheless, it worked – and I promptly bought my two tickets to London Heathrow.

So if you catch me murdering an American accent down the phone, I apologize in advance, I’m probably just trying to fix my Tivo.