We’ve arrived at a whole new level of robocalling, and this time the robots don’t want us to know they’re robots. Did you just get a shiver down your spine, too? Shiver jinx! This particular telemarketer for a company hawking health insurance has her own name and a tinkle of laughter to go along with her denial of actually being a robot.
Time’s Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer ecnountered the robo-woman when his cell phone rang and the voice on the other end wanted to know if he was looking for a good deal on health insurance (sassy!). Things didn’t sound quite right, so he asked point blank if she was a real person or a robot voice.
She laughs it off and says of course, she’s a “real person.” But she couldn’t answer other simple questions that weren’t part of her script, like “What vegetable is in tomato soup?”(although technically, a tomato is a fruit, but whatever) or “What day of the week was it yesterday?”
When she’s got nothing good to say or is accused of being artificially intelligent, she asks if you can hear her, and ponders whether the connection could be bad, as heard in recordings made by other Time staffers to the same number.
One of those callers keeps asking, “Are you a robot? Can you just say, ‘I’m not a robot?’ ” to which she stiffly replies, “I am a real person.” It’s kind of heartbreaking to listen to, actually. She even insists she has a name, just like you and me and Siri.
When other reporters dialed her up and answered all her non-robot-but-yeah-so-robotic-sounding questions, eventually the callers were transferred to a real live person to close the sale. And when Time contacted the company behind the phone number, it appeared to be a health company located in Ft. Lauderdale.
“We don’t use robot calls, sir,” said one person who answered the phone, before hanging up. Another person called and another non-robot employee answered, saying he wasn’t sure if the phone number that led to the robot lady was one of the company’s. He says he’ll ask around whether or not she works for the company, noting that, “First of all, we use TV, we use radio, we use Internet.” Robot voices on the Internet?
Time has the source number for the not-so mysterious robot lady here, if you’d like to have a go, and you can listen to the recordings for yourself, one below and the other in the source link. Me, I’ll just be here planning for the robot invasion because it seems their plan is almost complete.
*Thanks for the tip, Joey!