Today's New York Times reveals the identity of Amtrak Julie!
Since her debut in April 2001, Julie has earned high marks from callers, who have given her an approval rating of more than 90 percent, according to surveys done by Amtrak and by a company hired by the railroad. Many riders say that she sounds and acts so lifelike that they did not immediately realize that she was just a computer program. In handling roughly five million calls, or about a quarter of Amtrak's annual call volume Julie has saved the perennially strained railroad more than $13 million that it would have cost for humans to handle calls. Amtrak officials would not say how much Julie cost.
But Julie's affable telephone persona would not be possible without a real live Julie. And, in this case, it is Julie Stinneford, 41, who provides the voice for Amtrak's answering system. [New York Time: Your Train Will Be Late, She Says Cheerily]
For a hilarious send-up of Julie-like applications, listen to Tod Maffin's Speech Recognition? Hardly!.
Two years ago, I blogged my own experience with Julie. A reader referred me to the ultimate send-up: Neva Grant's wonderful radio fantasy in which Amtrak Julie meets Tom, the flight information guy. "What if we could liberate Tom and Julie from their constricting vocabularies and, you know, let them talk?"
Tom: Hi, I'm Tom.
Julie: I'm Julie.
Tom: You've got great diction, you know that?
Julie: Yes, you too.
Tom: And you're friendly, without being cloying.
Tom: Are you also a little lonely? Please say Yes or No.
Next thing you know, they're planning a weekend getaway. But the romance quickly fades. It's four of the funniest minutes NPR has ever done.
Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2004/11/24.html#a1121