If there's one thing that still grates our nerves, it's automated calling systems. Or, more specifically, the robotic beings that simply fail to understand our slang and incomprehensible rants. IBM's working hard and fast to change all that, with a team at the company's Thomas J Watson research division developing and patenting a computerized voice that can utter "um," "er" and "yes, we're dead serious." The sophisticated system adds in the minutiae that makes conversation believable to Earthlings, and it's even programmed to learn new nuances and react to phrases such as "shh." The technology has been difficulty coined "generating paralinguistic phenomena via markup in text-to-speech syntheses," and while exact end uses have yet to be discussed publicly, we can certainly imagine a brave new world of automated CSRs.

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