, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 253-262
Date: 02 Jun 2011

The Effects of Synthesized Voice Accents on User Perceptions of Robots

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Abstract

Human voice accents have been shown to affect people’s perceptions of the speaker, but little research has looked at how synthesized voice accents affect perceptions of robots. This research investigated people’s perceptions of three synthesized voice accents. Three male robot voices were generated: British (UK), American (US), and New Zealand (NZ). In study one, twenty adults listened through headphones to a recorded script repeated in the three different accents, rated the nationality, roboticness, and overall impression of each voice, and chose their preferred accent. Study two used these voices on a healthcare robot to investigate the influence of accent on user perceptions of the robot. Ninety-one individuals were randomized to one of three conditions. In each condition they interacted with a healthcare robot that assisted with blood pressure measurement but the conditions differed in the accent the robot spoke with. In study one, each accent was correctly identified. There was no difference in impression ratings of each voice, but the US accent was rated as more robotic than the NZ accent, and the UK accent was preferred to the US accent. Study two showed that people randomized to the NZ accent had more positive feelings towards the robot and rated the robot’s overall performance as higher compared to the robot with the US voice. These results suggest that the employment of a less robotic voice with a local accent may positively affect user perceptions of robots.