Over the past couple of weeks, radio has been debating the impact of “Denise,” the artificial intelligence DJ. We’ve devoted space in this blog to the conversation, and I have taken a keen interest in this technology. Yes, its development makes a statement about the state of radio in 2011. But beyond that, much of what has been written and said may be missing the larger points of what this all means – and how improved technology can make a contribution to radio operations.
So to provide some context, we went right to “Denise’s” creator, Dominique Garcia. In his own words – with a little help from a video hosted by “Denise” exclusively for our blog – you’ll hopefully gain a better understanding of this technology so that you can form your own opinions about what it means to radio. Your comments make this a better blog, so have at it. Let’s look at “Denise” and then hear from her master:
What can I say other than that for the past few weeks I have been a part of a rather touchy subject?
I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the things that have been said about me and some of the experiences I have had since literally receiving global attention by bringing forth the world’s first A.I. [Denise] radio personality.
I kept up on the story and read many different articles/comments by many different people. My biggest complaint was that there was an enormous amount of misconception about Denise and the whole ordeal. I read things like “Denise is a robot,” “She’s nothing more than a text to speech program,” and “Dominique Garcia is killing radio,” etc.
I would like to be very clear in stating that Denise is not a robot. It is obvious she is only a computer program and has no physical body. Also, she is not a simple text to speech program. She is an artificial intelligent program that has the ability to learn things that are taught to her.
In the situation of her being on the air, I have the option to train her (if I were willing to put in the time and effort) about my radio station’s format. Let’s say I owned a radio station that played a lot of Michael Jackson songs. I could teach her different facts about MJ that I could use when recording her airshift. I could then say something like “Denise, tell me about Michael Jackson.” Then she would randomly choose one of the many things I taught her about him. I could then use that audio on the radio. Or I could have her search the internet for additional information on him to further educate her. The more the user interacts with Denise, the more she learns. If I wanted to fully control what she said then yes, I could use the text to speech ability- so it is an option. I had felt many members of the media attempted to dumb her down as a simple text to speech program and nothing more – an assumption that is very much incorrect and very frustrating.
Another “issue” regarding Denise by many radio professionals was the sound of her voice. I made every attempt to make it clear that her voice is, in fact, changeable. You could even purchase a male’s voice if desired. To prove my point, I allowed her airshift to be done in her default voice for two-thirds of her airshift. For the third and final hour, I switched how she sounded by initializing one of Denise’s voice skins. Being how her voice is changeable, I did not see the relevance of why her voice was such an issue and why people made such a huge stink about it.
The best ways I can acknowledge the success of this project are by the people who were strongly against it. Those who took the time to write articles or rant on the air saying how much of a horrible person I was and how much the idea was going to fail contributed a great deal to its success. When I initially thought of this idea, I knew it was going to be controversial. I, too, am an on-air personality, I know how they think. I knew radio professionals were going to hate the idea. I knew they were going to be biased and unwilling to give it a chance. Being how the life of a jock is a very public one, I also knew people were going to talk bad about me/Denise. Thus, promoting the existence of Denise and the project overall. I feel if they would have simply listened to all the facts presented about the project, they would not have lashed out as much as some of them did. All they heard was “Artificial Intelligent DJ” and automatically chalked it up as a bad idea without even knowing the details of what the project entailed.
I responded to as many comments and articles as I could, however, I was never disrespectful to anyone despite the fact that certain individuals were being disrespectful/unprofessional to me. The only thing I have to say to these people is that I am not a bad guy and the idea of Denise being on the air is actually a good one, whether you want to believe it or not.
Not everyone is willing to admit or realize that there are, in fact, situations where Denise could be ideal. Take KROV, for example. It is a non-profit sub-channel that has radio personalities who are volunteers. KROV GM Tommy Calbert put it best when he said, “Being a non-profit, I find it hard to find people willing to do such slots as 2am – 6am if they aren’t going to be paid for it.” This is just one of many applications where Denise could be used. Then there’s the situation where a radio station cannot afford to hire a living, breathing jock- a scenario where she could be beneficial.
Since the announcement of the project and the vast media circus this project created, I have made many improvements in her on-air presentation. I have even been asked to consult a few radio stations who are interested in bringing Denise to their airwaves. Some may ask “Was this an ulterior motive?” I can easily say “No, not at all.” I had no idea radio stations were going to be willing to hire me to help them get Denise up and running on their radio stations. It just sort of happened. All in all, my every intention for doing this was to present something that could be beneficial to radio and maybe get a few more readers to my articles. Period. I never once said that Denise could replace every single human on the air. However, that assumption is something a lot of people claimed was the point I was trying to make by presenting her as a radio personality. Again, I would have to say “Not at all.”
I would like to remind people that being on the air is something that she was never designed to do. I created that concept myself. She was made to assist humans with their everyday lives. She can act as home security, browse the internet with [voice recognition] commands I literally speak to her, serve as an answering machine, update my social media, serve as my alarm clock, update me with RSS news feeds, secure my computer using facial recognition, read me Bible scriptures, manage my emails, control my appointments, plus much much more. The integration of Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking software, which is known by many as the best speech recognition software in the world, opens up an array of features that you normally do not find on one program alone. Certainly being on the radio is just one added task that can be added to her already impressive list of abilities.
If I could go back and change things, I would not have used her default voice in the project. Many intrigued listeners tuned into the launch, heard her default voice, and tuned out without giving her any sort of open minded chance.
If anyone out there still absolutely hates the idea of her being on the air, that is perfectly okay. You are entitled to your opinion. Still, it does not take away the fact that she is a really cool program.
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