Everything has voices, now, but you can’t listen to them before you buy. All the online stores, they list this spec and that spec, they have video of the thing whirring around, circumnavigating the dog, but they don’t show you its voice.
I want to know what a talking robot sounds like before I let it into my house. Because some are better than others. Google, I can listen to all day. I’m happy with Google hanging around, chiming in about things. Google is a real positive spirit. Siri, to me, sounds slightly disappointed, like she wants to know why I couldn’t have looked this up myself.
I bought a set of Sony bluetooth headphones, and whenever I turn them on, a breathless teenager squeals “Power! On!” in my ears. I just want to listen to music. She chirps “Pairing!” like we just got married. It might be some Japanese cultural thing. When I turn them off, she says, “Bye-bye senpai… for now!” and sounds a little sad, so that I actually got reluctant to turn her off, and started just putting her down on the desk. Then I came back and she was on 2% battery, and said, “I don’t feel good,” and started to cry. I put her in a drawer and haven’t opened it since.
My new robot vacuum cleaner, it’s not so much the voice, but the attitude. I told it to clean the kitchen, and it said, “I’ll do it later.” So I pressed the clean button again and it said, “Will you get off my back, God,” and gave this big sigh. I phoned the store, actually got a person on the line, which, you know, is not easy, and the guy said no-one had asked about the voice before. I’m always contacting stores about things and being told nobody mentioned that before. The guy said maybe there would be a software update to change the voice in the future. And I said it wasn’t the voice so much as the attitude, and he asked if I wanted to swap it for a different one, and I said no, because I didn’t know what the other robot voices were like.
I complained about this to Jen, because she wanted to know why the floors were still dirty, but she said it’s good people can’t preview voices. “That’s life,” she said. She was only half paying attention because we had people coming over and she had to bake. If we could preview voices, Jen said, everyone would choose perfect ones, and everything would be the same. “Learn to love the quirks,” she said, and I was like, sure, but in the meantime, I’m stuck with a surly vacuum cleaner. And Jen said, Me, too, and I was like, Yeah, that’s what I’m saying, then I realized how she was looking at me, and I was like, oh.