Small Talk from Computers

Developing machines that will both speak and listen

"Watch out for flak ahead," snaps the copilot of the B-17 in a voice that sounds like John Wayne's. Then the plane's bombardier gives an order in a slow Southern drawl. Snips from a grainy World War II movie? Not at all. This is part of B-17 Bomber, a home video game that Mattel will start selling this summer.

Once the stuff of science-fiction thrillers, talking machines are quickly becoming a part of modern life. Since 1978, when Texas Instruments introduced the loquacious learning aid Speak & Spell, a brave new world of chatty machines...

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