Read and hear this.
Sales Person or Robot that denies itself?
So, when I saw that an apparent robot telemarketer named Samantha West had randomly called a TIME editor and denied she/it/they was a robot, I wondered: where could I buy such an interactive voicebot?
This query led me down a strange rabbit hole. And along the way, I discovered that Samantha West may be something even stranger than a telemarketing robot. Samantha West may be a human sitting in a foreign call center playing recorded North American English through a soundboard.
Clearly, this is not human conversation: there are repeated laughs and weird phrases. “She failed several other [humanity] tests,” Time wrote. “When asked ‘What vegetable is found in tomato soup?’ she said she did not understand the question. When asked multiple times what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained repeatedly of a bad connection.”
It seems so open and shut.
So, Time’s story ran with the plausible headline, “Meet the Robot Telemarketer Who Denies She’s a Robot.” And many other blogs went with that explanation, too.
But if this kind of robotic telemarketing is possible, why don’t we see it more often? Every other kind of spam, if it is technically possible, becomes pervasive.
The first step to acquiring a voicebot like this was to figure out what the people selling it might call it. Certainly they would not refer to their services as “robot telemarketing.”
I started looking for the right jargon to Google. As it turns out, there are two key phrases: “interactive voice response” and “outbound.” Interactive voice response refers to telephone systems that can process what you’re saying and respond appropriately (even intelligently at times). Outbound call centers make calls; the inverse, inbound, refers to systems that receive calls from customers.