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Site Pal

By Shamus
on Saturday Aug 5, 2006
Filed under:


I’m sure some of you have noticed this ad on Technorati:

It’s a very gimmicky talking ad. The problem is, it starts talking when the ad is loaded. I thought we learned this lesson back in the dot-com dark ages: Nothing will send visitors fleeing from your site faster than having ads yammering at them while they are trying to read. It’s infuriating. LATER: I reloaded the ad a few times since then and it now stays quiet until the user provokes it. Looks like it was either a fluke or they wised up and make the ad quiet by default.


I bring this up because I find voice synthesis facinating. Like flying cars, this was one of those technologies we were supposed to have by now. And yet, for almost twenty years the technology stalled. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that I’ve started to hear voices that were notably better than the ones from the late 70’s. Voice technology progressed to the point where you could understand the computer if you listened carefully, but didn’t get much better after that. I’m not sure what has got the technology moving again. Is it the availability of faster computers and more memory, or simply renewed interest in the subject?

This voice is impressive because it’s the first female voice I’ve ever heard that didn’t sound like a man who’d just suffered an impact to his reproductive gear. It’s quite impressive, although it’s still no substitute for the real thing.

But what Site Pal is really selling is animated talking salespeople. It has the stench of a doomed endevor. I know it’s just getting started, but like other site-addon gimmicks (remember comet cursors, where you could add custom cursors to your site?) it’s a novelty that will quickly become passé and then an annoyance. It’s a shame, but I can’t really see any use for this. The animated talking head is amusing for a few moments, but despite their claims I don’t think it will be making any big sales.

Still, the character builder they have was an amusing way to kill ten minutes.

Comments (4)

  1. Cineris says:

    Technology I’m sure plays a role. I think in general computer generated voices were in a “good-enough” state so things stagnated — When I play UT2004 I use the text-to-speech option to allow me to keep track of the in-game chat without having to read it. It stumbles over a lot of the words, but you can figure things out well enough.

    The most recent work I’ve seen in the area has been IBM’s development of technology to cut up actual voices into discrete phonemes and compound the sounds together to create the sounds. It’s possible that the new approach has led to renewed interest by showing that it’s not necessary to have voices that sound like Tron characters.

  2. Pete Zaitcev says:

    Enjoy your favourite seyuu while they last.

  3. Pixy Misa says:

    Hey, if things work out, we can have the lead female character in every show voiced by Megumi. She’ll still be getting work when she’s 103.

  4. Tim Freriks says:

    We have launched our NOAH animated character technology, which, in our humble opinion, kicks SitePal’s butt. We endeavored to make sure we didn’t make the same mistakes. I’d love you to visit http://www.noahx.com and give us your feedback.

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