Android Issue #38538

Friday, January 4th, 2013

For almost three months, Google’s Android project has had a very peculiar bug open in its tracker. The bug’s name alone commands attention:

Google Now, if asked “What is a Giraffe?”, finishes the description with “he now praises the iPad”

If you’re unaware, Google Now is a personal assistant app for Android devices which aids in searching via voice. It takes in spoken commands, and speaks back results1. This bug is thus stating that when the app is asked to define the precise nature of a giraffe, a completely random phrase is tossed into the mix. That’s sure to rank near the top of any list of “most bizarre bugs”, and it’s likely to be ignored altogether due to its sheer preposterousness.

And yet, this report is entirely true. It seems Google’s text-to-speech tool has caught itself a case of the full-blown crazies, corrupting phrases containing a dee sound followed by the word “with”. If you want to play along at home, you can witness the madness yourself even without an Android device, albeit for a no-doubt-extremely-limited-time. Just use the Google Translate tool, along with a phrase like “end with”, to hear Google go completely bananas and start spouting nonsense.

Here’s a screenshot of just how the audio can be obtained, with a highlight on the button to click2:

It really did happen.
Create your own embarrassing story!

It’s almost certain that things like this will stop working soon, so here’s an archived recording for future amusement:

So, just what in the hell is going on here? Are we all suffering from an exceedingly specific mass auditory hallucination? Has Google’s text-to-speech tool been hacked, or worse, haunted, possibly by the pettily vengeful ghost of Steve Jobs? Stop reading here if you wish to preserve the mystery and wonder of it all.

Unfortunately, the answer is a bit more mundane. Google’s tool is simply broken, and providing some bum data. It appears that the phrase “he now praises the iPad” originates from this article:

Describing the negotiations last spring as being filled with “so much drama,” he now praises the iPad.

Indeed, if the phrase “filled with” is used, the entire quote is inserted, including the “so much drama” bit. It’s likely that some human error is causing this audio snippet to be incorrectly used alongside some instances of the word “with”. Perhaps we’ll get a more specific explanation of the issue in the future. For now, however, use your awareness of this bug to shock and amaze your friends while you still can.


Footnotes:

  1. Similar to Apple’s much-ballyhooed Siri, previously covered here and here. ↩︎

  2. The issue seems to be heard exclusively with the female American English voice. It appears you can guarantee that Google Translate will use this voice by using the Mexican http://translate.google.com.mx/ domain. ↩︎


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