Monday, April 19, 2010
machine makes vowel sounds. thoughts on texting.
First experiments with sound
Bell's father encouraged Aleck's interest in speech and, in 1863, took his sons to see a unique automaton, developed by Sir Charles Wheatstone based on the earlier work of Baron Wolfgang von Kempelen. The rudimentary "mechanical man" simulated a human voice. Aleck was fascinated by the machine and after he obtained a copy of von Kempelen's book, published in German, and had laboriously translated it, he and his older brother Melville built their own automaton head. Their father, highly interested in their project, offered to pay for any supplies and spurred the boys on with the enticement of a "big prize" if they were successful. While his brother constructed the throat and larynx, Aleck tackled the more difficult task of recreating a realistic skull. His efforts resulted in a remarkably lifelike head that could "speak", albeit only a few words. The boys would carefully adjust the "lips" and when a bellows forced air through the windpipe, a very recognizable "Mama" ensued, to the delight of neighbors who came to see the Bell invention.
Intrigued by the results of the automaton, Bell continued to experiment with a live subject, the family's Skye terrier, "Trouve". After he taught it to growl continuously, Aleck would reach into its mouth and manipulate the dog's lips and vocal cords to produce a crude-sounding "Ow ah oo ga ma ma." With little convincing, visitors believed his dog could articulate "How are you grandma?" More indicative of his playful nature, his experiments convinced onlookers that they saw a "talking dog."
Thoughts on texting.
I only started texting this year. I never needed -or wanted - a cell phone before.
However, I need it now, since I am often on call as a security guard.
LOL! The manual never explained how to text. Since 'everybody' knows how already! I didn't...
Ah, those timeless lines from Hamlet! (Here translated into texting by an online service, Lingo2Word)
O, w@ a rogue n peasant slave am I!
S it nt monstrous dat dis playa hre,
owe, what a scoundrel and a low level person in
society slave am I!
is it not monstrous dat this player here,
D: see omniglot. This resembles quite a few historical shorthand systems.
D: or predictive spelling.
Consider a typical phone keypad:
Suppose a user wishes to type "The". In a traditional "multi-tap" keypad entry system, it would be necessary to do the following:
Press 8 (tuv) once to select t.
Press 4 (ghi) twice to select h.
Press 3 (def) twice to select e.
Meanwhile, in a phone with predictive text, it is only necessary to:
Press 8 once to select the (tuv) group for the first character.
Press 4 once to select the (ghi) group for the second character.
Press 3 once to select the (def) group for the third character.
As mentioned above, the key sequence 4663 on a telephone keypad, provided with a linguistic database in English, will generally be disambiguated as the word "good". However, the same key sequence also corresponds to other words, such as "home", "gone", "hoof", "hood" and so on. Such confusions may lead to mistaken meaning even if all of the words are typed correctly and spelled correctly. For example, "Are you home?" could be rendered as "Are you good?"
Words produced by the same combination of keypresses are technically paragrams,, but may be referred to as "textonyms" (or "txtonyms",) or "T9onyms" (pronounced "tynonyms")., though the phenomenon has nothing to do with T9 per se and occurs in other systems.
Reportedly, textonyms may be adopted in regular speech; for example, the use of the word "book" to mean "cool" since book is debatably considered more frequent than "cool" by some predictive text systems , "idiom" to mean "Heino" (an abbreviation for "Heineken", used in Dublin) and "Zonino!" used to mean "Woohoo!".
Disambiguation failure and misspelling
Textonyms in which a disambiguation systems gives more than one dictionary word for a single sequence of keystrokes, are not the only issue, or even the most important issue, limiting the effectiveness of predictive text implementations. More important, according to the above references, are words for which the disambiguation produces a single, incorrect response. The system may, for example, respond with "Blairf" upon input of 252473, when the intended word was "Blaire" or "Claire" both of which correspond to the keystroke sequence, but are not, in this example, found by the predictive text system. When mis-typings or mis-spellings occur, they are very unlikely to be recognized correctly by a disambiguation system, though error correction mechanisms, such as used on the Apple iphone keyboard, may mitigate that effect.
D: so if you see 'good' in lieu of 'food', context likely provides enough meaning to allow you to guess correctly.
D: it is terribly unfortunate that S must accessed as the FOURTH letter - that is a lot of work for plurals!
Even the hacker EZ ending is no easier.
D: short of a revision of alphabet order in line with Morse Code, I cannot think of an easy solution.
Herbert S. Zim, in his classic introductory cryptography text "Codes and Secret Writing", gives the English letter frequency sequence as "ETAON RISHD LFCMU GYPWB VKXJQ Z", the most common letter pairs as "TH HE AN RE ER IN ON AT ND ST ES EN OF TE ED OR TI HI AS TO", and the most common doubled letters as "LL EE SS OO TT FF RR NN PP CC". 
D: so what would an optimized keypad look like? Perhaps the following.
D: so how does this system fare? Let's try the most common word, "the".
Old: t 8 one tap, h 4 two taps, e 3 two taps. That's um... 5 taps.
New: t one tap. h two taps, e 1 tap. For 4 taps. Not great.
But that's just a blip.
D: or "of". Old: SIX taps. New: THREE taps. But this is misleading, since O and F are on the same button.
I wait 3 seconds to hit the same key again. So that's +3 taps, arbitrarily.
One more try.
"And". Old: FOUR. New: also FOUR.
OK, I can see that the mechanical clockwork mapping of letter neglects certain realities about word frequency.
Doubled letters remain punitive on texting time.
Oddly, the existing alphabet system if pretty good for common 2-letter sequences.
I would be intrigued what is the optimized cellphone text alphabet layout.
Update: am waiting on my copy of Chomsky's SPE. It will take me a long time to master this. Damn notation... grr.
It should arrive for this next weekend. That's $60 - my sole next hardcover book acquisition any time soon. Ouch.
Posted by Dino Snider at 8:17 PM