Planet GOOG

Weird Google Text-to-Speech Bug Randomly Blurts Out the Phrase ‘And Now He Praises the iPad’

Make it say awkward things about Larry Page!
(Screencap: Google Translate)

(Screencap: Google Translate)

Google’s text-to-speech engine is arguably one of the most powerful in the world. It almost always perfectly captures our speech, making it far easier to speak our text messages than risk an embarrassing autocorrect faux pas.

We rarely have complaints about Google’s text-to-speech technology, but there is this one really weird bug within the engine: When you open Google Now, click on the microphone to activate text-to-speech and ask the question, “What is a giraffe?” the phone becomes kiiind of possessed. While reading back the definition of a giraffe to you, Google Now randomly inserts the phrase, “And now he praises the iPad.” Pretty awkward given that Google’s currently dueling in the tablet market with iPad’s own creator.

The bug’s been filed with Google, and appears to have been documented as far back as October 2012, though it has yet to be fixed. Several people have chimed in to offer their own explanations for why it might be occurring. Writes one user:

More research shows it has something to do with the letters “e” “n” and “d” directly preceding ” with”.

“colored with” does not cause this

“sanded with” does not cause this

“rendered with” does not cause this

“pretended with” does not cause this

“end with” DOES cause this

“ned with” does not cause this

“tend with” DOES cause this

“homened with” DOES cause this

Other commenters have noted that the bug appears to be a text-to-speech engine issue not only affecting Google Now, but also Google Translate. Furthermore, the quote may have been pulled from an interview with Hearst Magazine president David Carey, where he admits to praising the iPad.

Wondered one user, “Could this be leftover test data from Google Translate development still lingering in the system?”

Hacker News users have of course taken the opportunity to force Google Translate to say that Larry Page praises the iPad. If you type “Apple hypnotized the Google founder with a magic wand, end with…” into Google Translate, you won’t be disappointed.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com