"Are you familiar with the old robot saying, 'DOES NOT COM-PUTE'?"
For all their ability to create AI, robot builders of the future apparently have no way of convincingly mimicking human speech, or simply sticking a recording of one saying all the important things into its memory bank.
Robots, androids, or any other artificially-intelligent machine with the ability to talk to humans very often does so in a flat and monotone voice that's devoid of emotion, with machine-like gaps between each word and/or sentence. In English, a robot may often speak without contractions, even though a contraction would be one of the easiest parts of speech to program a computer to do correctly. Their speech also often includes numerous specialized computer derived robotic Stock Phrases
, such as: "affirmative/negative" instead of "yes/no", "file not found", and the classic "does not compute" when confused
. When written, it is often in ALL CAPS, possibly to evoke the feeling of old computers which didn't have enough memory for lower-case letters. (Japanese Media
for similar reasons.)
Robots will also talk to each other
in Robo Speak
, a step backwards
in technology since one would assume wireless communication between machines would be faster and stealthier. Killer cyborgs are always lurching about declaring "SER-CHING FOR HU-MANS!" — how is this going to do anything but hinder them?
Even worse is when they talk to themselves
, declaring each thing they do as they do it. Often, this gives the heroes clues or information that the robots would rather keep secret — so, why are they blaring it to the world?
Writers may do this out of fear that the audience would be too dumb
to notice that the robot is, in fact, a robot. Or perhaps it's just a misguided attempt to make up for the fact that your average robot can't display most of the more subtle physical indications of intent.
Your Robot Buddy
will almost without exception use Robo Speak
A "serious" android in anime, such as a Robot Girl
, often talks normally but very formally
and with no inflection
This trope seems to be disappearing slowly
. As modern computers get better at duplicating and mimicking sounds, including speech — and the average person grows more familiar with that technology in his day-to-day life - the public at large seems to be accepting the notion that you could create a robot that doesn't sound like a sedated Darth Vader.
At times damage can be indicated by a Electronic Speech Impediment
Compare Spock Speak
. See also Pick Your Human Half
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Anime and Manga
- The Sentinels in X-Men also fit, as does the Danger Room.
Havok: This is what's so irritating about fighting these things. The nonstop encyclopedic recitation of things I've known about since puberty!
- There was a comic where Hercules rode a chariot across space. He was given a robot by some aliens to record his adventures for them, and abuse the robot's credit card. The robot spoke in the same "Question: Is this wise?", "Statement: Thank you" fashion, at one point saying:
Recorder: Declaration: AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!
- Corrective statement: The Rigellian Recorders were introduced in Lee and Kirby's Thor. Qualifier: The humor potential lay unused until Roy Thomas's run on the book.
- Shockwave, when penned by Simon Furman, often begins trains of thought in the same way, using even longer words like 'observation', 'interrogative' or 'hypothesis'.
- The robots in the original Magnus Robot Fighter series were particularly stilted examples, with pauses between each word. The Valiant Comics version justified Robo Speak as deliberate law, to discourage the use of robots in fraud (along with a prohibition on making robots too human in appearance).
- Andrew in Bicentennial Man seems to suffer from this in the beginning, referring to himself as "one" rather than "I" or "me". However, as he becomes a real boy over the course of the movie, his speech becomes more natural as well.
- Somewhat averted by Jarvis in Iron Man, the AI of Tony Stark's computer - though it's difficult to tell when he's being genuinely polite and when he's being sarcastic.
- In Grandma's Boy, videogame programmer J. P. sometimes does this for no clear reason.
- Deliberately averted with C-3P0 on the original Star Wars trilogy, since he is a protocol droid fluent in six million forms of communications and mannerisms, played straight with the battle droids on the prequel trilogy, as well as a few other examples.
- Robocop tends to straddle the trope, since he's basically a heavily armored robot powered by an actual human. By default, he speaks in Robospeak, but sometimes with some emotion thrown in. Stronger emotions, such as Unstoppable Rage, come just shy of overriding the default monotone.
- He talks exclusively in this way right after his resurrection, but regains his former way of speaking over the course of the film. His voice still has a hint of electronic filtering, though. This is not a bad thing.
- Other robots in the Robocop world, however, play the trope straight. Notably ED-209.
- In Elysium Max gives some back to his "parole officer" after it (a robot) extends his parole for sassing some robot officers.
Live Action TV
- Older than Television: In Karel Capek's 1920 play R.U.R., according to Capek's instructions, the robots are "slightly mechanical in their speech." In the English translation, they do not use contractions.
- The droid HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic plays with this trope. While protocol droids and the like speak normally, HK has distinctly stilted phrasing.
HK-47: Statement: HK-47 is ready to serve, master.
Player: You don't need to call me master, you know.
HK-47: Query: Don't I? I was under the assumption that organic meatbags such as yourself enjoyed such forms of address.
- A scene in the first game hints that most of HK-47s personality and speech quirks were accidental errors in his programming that his creator found amusing enough to keep. HK himself seems rather proud of them, becoming insulted when asked to talk normally.
- His evil-er knockoffs in the sequel, the HK-50s, does the same thing, with the addition of adjectives to the initial sentence descriptor. This can backfire on them, since those adjectives includes "Insincere".
- Cammy, Juli and Juni use Robo Speak in Street Fighter Alpha 3, when they're brainwashed.
- Mega Man games:
- Siarnaq in Mega Man ZX Advent sounds like a DOS prompt, in fact. It's apparently just extreme stoicism after being Left for Dead by his pals.
- Mega Man not only averts the trope, he's downright snarky in 9.
- Sonic the Hedgehog games:
- While not exactly monotone, E-102 Gamma from Sonic Adventure does sound calm at all times. He talks to himself a fair amount, and while this doesn't hinder him at all, it doesn't make much sense, outside of letting players and viewers in on his data processes. Oh yeah, and stock phrases: "Insufficient data." "Does not compute." "Accessing data."
- "Give me the bird."
- E-123 Omega from Sonic Heroes, on the other hand, gets an angry monotone, but better lines ("WORTHLESS CONSUMER MODELS!"). Interestingly, his voiced renditions of stock answers like "Affirmative.", "Negative." or "Illogical, does not compute!" fit his serious but also very angry character quite well.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), he sounds more robotic, to a fault.
- Deus Ex:
- The security robots use this trope. Their dialogue seems to consist of only a few phrases, two — "Scanning area" and "Target acquired" the most commonly-heard. (In the case of the bigger bots, which shake the ground with each step, "scanning area" at least is not necessarily counterproductive, but it is redundant.)
- The AIs in the same game, however, speak relatively naturally, unnatural voices notwithstanding. Deadalus, being the oldest model, has perhaps the oddest speech pattern, but it's still believable. There are some exceptions: in one instance, he experiences a malfunction and sends the player the following message: "Incorrect inform — ps -al : attach. Streets clear. No danger." ...This in possibly one of the most dangerous areas in the whole game.
- The mechanoids in Thief II. Particularly creepy in that, when idling or patrolling, they spout religious phrases.
- Valve's GoldSrc game engine, which ran Half-Life, its expansions, and many others, included a fairly simple speech synthesis system (of the word-based create-sentences-from-a-fixed-vocabulary type, although the voice could be inflected, sped up and slowed down, and the words chopped up and reassembled to create new words with a little creativity) used for the enemy Marines, the Black Mesa Announcement System (a.k.a. Vox), and the HEV suit. The degree of roboticity varies: Vox is inhumanly low-pitched and has a robotic rhythm, the HEV suit still has a robotic rhythm but an otherwise human-sounding voice, and the Marines are closest to being passable as human aside from sounding like they're speaking through walkie-talkies (warning: some profanity and possible mild spoilers).
- The qualities of the voices are different in translations. For instance, ironically enough, in German, Vox is completely human-sounding while the HEV suit is given a monotone that not even Vox has in English.
- Robot Girl Aigis in Persona 3 seems to lack robot speak to the same extent as KOS-MOS above, generally lacking inflection to sound "robotic", but still has some emotion, such as when she confronts Ryoji when she finally remembers that's he's death's harbinger. This only applies to the English voice cast, however. The Japanese voice for Aigis seems to have avoided this trope. Japanese Aigis has normal inflections but speaks in very generic, to the point, militaryish grammar. The robot speak in the English was an attempt to convey that. Aigis starts to talk normally towards the end of the game, much like how Aigis in English eventually starts to sound less robotic.
- Certain entities closely associated with Law in Shin Megami Tensei talk like this. Purgatorium's angel warriors in Shin Megami Tensei IV all repeat the same lines in pretty much the same inflection. Pluto and the Ancient of Days sound like their speech is largely composed of prerecorded tapes, though the former mixes in dubstep of all things.
- Averted with Yumemi Hoshino in Planetarian.
- The first two MechWarrior games had the mech startup sequence and in-game warnings (which used Mad Libs Dialogue) in a feminine Robospeak ("Betty"). "Reactor Online. Sensors Online. Weapons Online. All Systems Nominal.". MechWarrior Living Legends likewise has a monotone Betty computer, though it speaks much more quickly and in a less stilted manner. MechWarrior Online uses the same voice actor as the first two games for Betty. Mechwarrior 3 and 4, however, drop Betty for a much more human voice.
- Robot Girl Tio from Grandia II quips stuff like "Wind speed: 0.120" (before casting a wind spell) and "Centigrade: 9900" (that would be a fireball) in the middle of fiercest battles with that eerily serene voice of hers. However, since one of the prominent subplots is her becoming a real girl, she progresses to Spock Speak (and to The Stoic, personality-wise) by the end of the game.
- In Star Control 3, the Daktaklakpak precede HK-47 in the department of stilted phrasing. They sound like they're reading off scientific papers. "Clarification 1: Daktaklakpak is shortened form of complete species name. Clarification 2: Complete species name of Daktaklakpak contains complete assembly and maintenance instructions for Daktaklakpak race. Conclusion: Daktaklakpak name is 'big deal'!"
- Robo of Chrono Trigger speaks more formally than the human characters, and his text boxes are accompanied by an electronic noise, implying Robo Speak. Doesn't stop him from being a lovable character, though.
- Disgaea: BEEP BEEP Thursday fits this trope BEEP BEEP
- EarthBound, to an extent. The robotic Starmen speak for the most part in normal English — albeit peppered with onomatopoeic machine sounds such as * whirr* and * click* . This is an invention of the localization, however; the original Japanese release differentiated the Starmen's robospeak by writing their dialogue entirely in katagana (the equivalent of using ALLCAPS TO SIGNIFY MONOTONE SPEECH.)
- Mother3 used the same strategy as its predecessor, in the few instances where you got to talk to robots. However, the unofficial English translation has them speaking in straight ALLCAPS, with no onomatopoeia.
- Illusion's H-game Artificial Girl 3 has a variety of personalities the player can assign to a girl he creates, one of them (the N type), has some Robo Speak lines like "Preparing to rest... shutting down... complete." and "Probability of pregnancy: 10%", the game even has the option of giving her robotic ears to fill the role better.
- Nu-13, the final boss of BlazBlue speaks almost entirely in Machine Monotone Robo Speak complete with Loads and Loads of Loading, which is creepy as hell coming from what looks like a human girl.
- Fracktail from Super Paper Mario. As well as a few references to bad translations in Nintendo's past, it pretty much speaks like a malfunctioning Windows operating system, using all manner of computer speak with semi puns. 404 Computer Hamsters Not Found! and C:/ run query identification C:/ run insult generator C:/ results: go away yeti-lip! being some memorable examples.
- The Robot Peach Castle Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story speaks in incredibly stilted Robo Speak. ACTIVATE BLACK HOLE ENDGAME! and BOO SYSTEM ONLINE! INVISIBILITY FIELD NOW OPERATIONAL! ENEMY EVASIVE MANEUVERS NULL! being a few funny examples.
- In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Pi'illodium speaks in this, with quotes such as 'Scanning foe potential... chance of my victory: 120%', 'cue: beg mode' and 'Boot: Self Destruct'. The giant boss Earthwake does the same thing (Damage bad! Destroy bad mustaches!)
- No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle: Dr. Letz Shake. "Do you remember me. Question mark."
- Dystopia plays this for laughs. The heavies are actually human cyborgs, but they use Robo Speak and make jokes related to their more robotic tendencies.
- Malco in Cave Story SPEAKS ENTIRELY IN UPPERCASE LETTERS. (In the Japanese version, his dialogue is mostly in katakana.) So do other NPC robots which aren't Ridiculously Human Robots.
- Starcraft II has damaged Dominion Adjutant and Raven speaking like this.
- While not exactly a robot, Chaos Lord Ledgermayne of AdventureQuest Worlds, who is a being made of living magic, speaks calmly and coolly in a computerized fashion. And that's not all, it also refers to itself as "we" or as "this form". It's kind of like a magi-borg!
Ledgermayne: This form complies with the master's wishes.
- Of course, needless to say, Ledgermayne lets out a rare and truly single non-Robo Speak exclaimation in the form of a Big "NO!" when Drakath gives focuses his Chaos magic into the Supreme Arcane Staff, allowing the hero to use it to convert Ledgermayne back into the mass of mana from which it was made.
- The classic NES game Bionic Commando featured a boss robot that would begin the battle with the statement: "PI PI PI... WE HAVE FOUND AN INTRUDER... WE ARE GOING TO ATTACK"
- The D1 Beetle in the remake says something similar, although less Engrishy.
- The Soldier of Team Fortress 2 takes part in this when you equip his full Halloween set, going "beep boop", or even half-assing it and just saying "Robot noises"
- Berzerk, one of the earliest games to feature synthesized speech, was set in a world of killer robots who spoke such phrases as "the humanoid must not escape" in monotone.
- The monstrous TI-83 in College Saga intones: "Syntax error. Deleting user."
- In Friendship is Witchcraft Sweetie Belle, especially when she is supposed to be emotional or enthusiastic, often breaks into this.
Sweetie Belle: Set phasers to hug!
- Parodied a few times in Futurama, where in most cases robots did not talk in Robo Speak.
- For example, a Lucy Liu-bot confesses to Fry: "[Normal voice] Oh Fry, I love you more than the moon and the stars and the [Robo Speak] POETIC IMAGE NUMBER 37 NOT FOUND."
- Another Futurama parody came with an old, obsolete robot who did cart around a basket of tapes with various bits of speech recorded onto them, including a tape labelled "Snappy Response". Once punched in, the robot says "Your Mother!".
- There was also one where the leader of the robot Mafia was trying to teach another robot a lesson. The robot starts begging (not in Robo Speak yet), "Please, look into your hard drive, and access your mercy file!" to which the leader of the robot Mafia said "File not found!" Granted, it was used more as a snappy comeback said in a normal tone, but he still reverted to a primitive phrasing to describe the "missing" file.
- In the commentary for an early episode, the Word of God noted that when people auditioned for the voice of Bender they tended to use a "robotic" voice, which wasn't what they were looking for.
- One of the few times Bender actually did use Robo Speak in-show was when an Obstructive Bureaucrat stole and downloaded his personality to a disk, reducing him to only be able to say the phrase "I am Bender, please insert girder". And yet he still manages to contribute to the episode's Big Flashy Musical Number.
- There's also the episode where Fry goes insane and thinks he's a robot. He ends up speaking robo-speak even though his best friend is a robot who does not talk that way.
- "Robo-Puppy preparing to lick cheek. Robo-Puppy commencing cheek-licking. Licking in progress. Licking complete."
- And the robot at the pizza place who speaks in a New York accent, but when Fry asks for anchovies on his pizza the robot responds in Robo Speak.
- In one episode of Atomic Betty, Robot Buddy X5 admonishes a trick-or-treater wearing a robot costume and speaking in jarring Robo Speak that "Robots do not talk like that".
- In Invader Zim, GIR tends to use a rather brusque and aggressive variant of Robo Speak in "Serious Mode" — and talks like a little girl on a sugar rush when his normal self. His former speech pattern may be from the fact that his better-constructed counterparts, SIRs, talk this way, being part of a warrior race and all.
- Thunderstick on Bravestarr stammers and repeats random words like he has a crossed wire. It could possibly be all the blows he takes to the head knocked a screw loose somewhere or it could be the robot version of an unhinged and psychotic personality, he is a bad guy after all.
- Of all the robot characters on Megatron's toady Soundwave was the only Robo-Speaker, despite the fact that he transforms into a tape player, and would be expected to have an even firmer grasp of sound than the other characters — he even frequently says "By your command," a Cylon Catch Phrase. Even his subordinates, who transform into the tapes he deploys from his chest, are more articulate; at least, those who aren't animals. Primitive Cybertronians with little intelligence tend to sound more like cavemen than Cylons (see the Dinobots, or any combiner team). On the other end of the scale, Autobots Jazz and Blaster not only eschew Robo Speak, but were virtually jive characters, complete with large slang vocabularies.
- Omega Supreme talked in robo-speak, but this was justified in that his mind was damaged in a failed attempt by Megatron to reprogram him as a Decepticon. This left him emotionally stunted, and this was reflected in his speech patterns. He could speak normally, with effort, but rarely chose to.
- In Transformers Animated, Perceptor, the Autobots' ultimate scientist, speaks with a voice synthesizer as an homage to Stephen Hawking. According to the creators, he deleted his personality to make room for more facts.
- In the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Imitation Krabs", Plankton creates and pilots a robot version of Mr. Krabs to infiltrate the Krusty Krab. Everything he says, even laughter, comes out as robo-speak, adding to the Paper-Thin Disguise. "whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?"
- Red Tornado in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. His Mirror Universe counterpart even prefaces a reveal with "Revelation:"
- The Penguins of Madagascar:
- In the special "The Hoboken Surprise":
"Must. Destroy. Animals."
"Why. Did we. Start talking. Like robots?"
- Also referred to in "Herring Impaired" when Julien attempts to imitate Maurice:
"Uh, hey, everybody! Stop having fun, because I am boring! And you should be boring too!"
"I do NOT talk like that!"
"Yes. You. Do."
"Now that's just your robot voice."
- Although text-to-speech systems have improved greatly with time, most publicly available systems still sound like a bad electronic imitation of speech. Even if the system gets the words pronounced and inflected properly, its timing will often suffer from glaringly noticeable gaps, and some systems may even use different voices for pre-rendered and dynamically generated data. This frequently leads to an Uncanny Valley effect with automated telephone information systems - you think you're listening to recorded human speech, and then the system comes up with something like "Here's the latest information for the flight you requested. Flight. Four. Four. Two. Seven. Is scheduled to land at. Miami. International. Airport. At. Five. Twenty. P.M. Please check the monitors in the terminal for more up-to-date information."
- Most of those systems are actually pieced together from a real actress reading individual words and phrases, a system originally used for the speaking clock. When systems of this type do need to read something they didn't anticipate, like an address, they switch to a synthesizer.
- They are getting better. Many NOAA weather radio stations use both a male and a female synthesized voice to read the weather in lieu of human reporters.
- Low quality voice encoders can make this out of real speech. Their purpose is to transfer legible voice over as low bandwidth, it can lead to a voice quality that is legible but most other aspects of it (that would make the speaker identifiable, for example) are lost.
- Parodied by, of all things, an actual robot. The "Actroid" robot can recognise 40,000 words of Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English and moves and speaks in something approaching a lifelike fashion... until (not shown in the video) she is asked if she's a robot. In which case she moves her arms jerkily and replies "Yes-I-Am-A-Robot" in a dull monotone. Then she winks and says "Just kidding." She can also rap.
- Stephen Hawking's famous near-monotone voice synthesizer. He has turned down many offers to improve and humanise the voice, saying that it's become the voice that people expect him to have. And of course it is recognised the world over.
- Anonymous's Youtube video messages to Scientology are all done in Robo Speak, so as to speak for all Anonymous and also to avoid retribution from the Church of Scientology.
- IBM's "Watson" system. He actually sounds less roboty than Stephen Hawking's synthesizer. It still uses the "string pre-read phonemes together" method. It sounds a bit like the Enterprise-D's computer, but male.