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Computers Judge What Makes The Perfect Radio Voice

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

I'm Audie Cornish, and...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILBUR FITZGERALD: ...I'm Wilbur Fitzgerald, and this week on All Tech Considered, "The Voice," public radio style, judged by computers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CORNISH: Nearly a thousand of you heeded our call on All Tech back in March to submit a voice sample. The idea - let an algorithm decide if you have a voice for radio, and that sample we got from actor Wilbur Fitzgerald rated highly - no surprise there. But most of you who responded are not actors. To recap, a company called Jobaline created software to assess the voices of job candidates for potential employers. CEO Luis Salazar says it's one additional metric, along with things like experience and education.

LUIS SALAZAR: Right now, we are processing two cases - whether it's an energetic, engaging voice or whether it's a soothing, calming voice.

CORNISH: For instance, a call center dealing with angry customers wants employees with nice, soothing voices. Retailers, on the other hand, want energetic voices to push merchandise. We wondered how well it all works, so Salazar's software gave us a custom analysis, looking for both characteristics.

SALAZAR: You want somebody who's engaging because it's a radio show, but you want somebody soothing, which seems to be the key characteristic of hosts of NPR.

CORNISH: Hey, I'll take it. And here are a few of the audience voices the computer algorithm ranked the highest. See if you agree.

(SOUNDBITES OF ARCHIVED RECORDINGS)

MIKE MCCRADY: I'm Mike McCrady, and this week on All Tech Considered, "The Voice."

DANA UNDERWOOD: I'm Dana Underwood, and this week on All Tech Considered, "The Voice."

RENE ARIAS: I'm Rene Arias (ph), and this week on All Tech Considered, "The Voice," public radio style...

HARRY MACINERNY: I'm Harry Macinerny, and this week on All Tech Considered, "The Voice," public radio style, judged by computers.

CORNISH: All right, so we have to admit, we were also struck by the voices that the computer did not rank as highly.

(SOUNDBITES OF ARCHIVED RECORDINGS)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: "The Voice," public radio style.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: "The Voice," public radio style, judged by computers.

CORNISH: According to our human ears, some of these low-scoring voices sounded pretty darn good. Take this one.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRUCE RABY: I'm Bruce Raby, and this week on All Tech Considered, "The Voice" public radio style, judged by computers.

CORNISH: Salazar says he actually likes that one, too.

SALAZAR: I don't know. I find it very soothing. It's maybe the energy level. I think that would be a great voice for reading a book - an audiobook.

CORNISH: Bruce Raby, are you listening? What do you think - a future in audiobook narration? Ultimately, Salazar says, there still has to be a human element here. Real people also judge these outcomes and help the software get better. Our thanks to all of you who put your best voice forward. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.