Telemarketers. On the one hand they’re just doing their job. On the other they can be aggressive, intimidating, and unrelenting. You can block problem numbers but you’re never really free of them. For Roger Anderson, the final straw was when a telemarketer cursed at his young son on the phone. They picked the wrong person as Anderson is a huge telephone enthusiast, both in his work and free time. He designed a robot to take telemarketing calls for him: The Jolly Roger Telephone Company. It’s glorious.
The goal of the Jolly Roger Telephone Company is to waste telemarketers’ time. The robot is no genius. You won’t have meaningful conversations with it, but it’s fairly realistic. Firstly, it uses Anderson’s own voice so it never sounds robotic. Secondly, it isn’t entirely random; it listens for pauses and inflections to know when questions are asked and responses are required.
This video is the perfect example of how great the robot is and how aggressive telemarketers can be. For a few minutes the robot gives out uninterested murmurs of “OK” and “riiight” but once in a while it delivers great reasons for the telemarketer to repeat their entire pitch. In the video you can hear it respond to a question with, “Hang on, there’s a bunch going on here, hang on… OK sorry. Go ahead. Who is this, what are you calling about again?”
The telemarketer repeats his sales pitch and asks when would be a good time to come round. The robot responds.
“OK so… I just woke from a nap. I’m still kind of groggy and I took some medicine that doesn’t really help so… you know that feeling when you just woke up and need a couple of minutes to think and figure out what’s going on? Maybe get some coffee? Do you drink coffee?”
“I don’t drink coffee.”
The telemarketer is about to continue before being interrupted by the robot. “Wait, hang on, there’s a bee on me.”
It’s genius. The real human voice seems to completely throw people off suspecting a robot though sometimes they figure out something isn’t right by the end of the call. You can hear that most of the telemarketers don’t realise it’s a robot but they do get pissed off because their time is being wasted. That’s the beauty of the voice samples Anderson has chosen. The robot takes a long time to say very little and gets the telemarketers to talk for as long as possible.
Anderson is happy for others to direct calls to his robot, even for us in the UK, though with some caveats. “Please use sparingly and with restraint. This robot is not meant to prank friends or wrong numbers. I built it to waste the time of the telemarketing industry.”
This is just the right mix of clever and silly that we love. Bravo, Roger Anderson.
Main image © The Jolly Roger Telephone Co
Story via The New York Times