Recruits Needed to Place Phone Calls to a Talking Machine

Columbia’s Center for Computational Learning Systems needs volunteers ASAP to help develop a program to serve library patrons by telephone, and YOU CAN HELP!

Our dialogue system needs to be trained to understand a wider range of speakers with different accents, different voice qualities (whispery, booming, musical, flat), different speech rates and so on. It also needs to be trained to understand that different people use different words to ask for the same thing.

Duration: Before placing any phone calls to our experimental library application, called CheckItOut, you would come to our lab for a fifteen minute meeting to sign a written consent form permitting us to record your calls, and to help us fill out a questionnaire about your background and speech characteristics. We will also record a small sample of your speech during this meeting so we can measure your baseline speech rate and fluency.

You will be assigned a pseudonym to use when you call; the code is to allow us to identify your calls without using actual personal identifying information. You will be asked to make a minimum of sixty calls. Typical duration of calls is about five minutes, although they can sometimes be longer – while the system does some background processing.

Compensation will be provided at the rate of approximately one dollar per successful call. For more information, contact Becky Passonneau at