Friday, October 10, 2014

I Would Have Gone With Stephen Hawking

Before making an approach to an airport, every pilot wants to know the wind strength and direction, what clouds they will encounter, the altimeter setting, and what runway is in use. At some airports the pilot figures out this information herself by flying over the field. At others a flight service specialist simply recites the information to each arriving pilot. At busy airports, a recorded message called ATIS recites the information on a dedicated frequency. The information on the ATIS is typically updated once an hour, or when conditions change. At some airports a controller just reads the information into a recording machine, so you can hear his or her voice, fast or slow, annoyed or cheerful, with occasional minor stumbles and the tower background noise. At others an automated voice reads the ATIS.

Here's a live human reading the ATIS:

Here's the ATIS read by the English-language automated voice Nav Canada uses (in Montréal, the Frech ATIS is on a different frequency):

Today I've just picked up an ATIS that uses an automated voice, and my non-pilot co-worker says, "I like him. He reminds me of David Suzuki." It's pretty obvious that "he" is a robot, and I've never thought of David Suzuki as sounding robotic. For foreigners not familiar with Suzuki, here's a clip. (I ask you to please refrain from commenting here on Malthusian economics, environmental sustainability or Suzuki as a person. The clip is there just so you can hear his voice).

I don't hear the resemblance, except perhaps that he has the earnest careful way of speaking, slowing down to make points. But not more so than any other public speaker. It made me realize, though, that I always assumed the robot was a white guy. I'll try and picture him as different ethnicities now, and wearing different funny hats and ties.

Here's a British automated ATIS voice, not as frightfully British as I was expecting.

1 comment:

car01 said...

The Heathrow voice sounds as British to my British ears as I would expect. I reckon its a real human voice spliced together (like the talking clock and station announcements on the Tube).