Automated Call Systems Hear You Now

More countries are using voice automated systems, where a person's voice is actually recognized

Matthias Jung / Laif for TIME

Karl-Heinz Land, CEO of VoiceObjects AG, in his office near Koln, Germany.

You dial the number, and the automated voice answers. "Our menu has changed," the voice says. And you are thinking, Yes, it's going to be even worse than before. Customer experiences like those thrill Karl-Heinz Land, whose VoiceObjects program threatens to make us actually enjoy automated-voice systems.

In the same way that Apple's Macintosh created a graphic user interface, GUI (pronounced goo-ey), that made it easy for ordinary mortals to use personal computers, Land has laid claim to what he unabashedly calls a VUI (voo-ey), or vocal user interface. The idea is that companies need an idiot-proof building-block system to assemble easy-to-use...

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