Follow TV Tropes


Robo Speak

Go To

"Are you familiar with the old robot saying, 'DOES NOT COM-PUTE'?"
Bender, Futurama

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 do so in a flat Machine Monotone voice devoid of emotion, with machine-like gaps between each word and/or sentence. When using a language with contractions, such as 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 uses katakana for similar reasons: old computers and video game cartridges didn't have ROM to spare for the thousands of characters a proper kanji font would include, and katakana is easier to read than kanji or even hiragana at lower graphical resolutions.) In illustrated media, robotic speech may be indicated by rectangular Speech Bubbles and/or MICR-style lettering.

Being usually portrayed as mindless servants, robots often lack a sense of individuality and will always refer to themselves as "This unit" or simply state what they are doing in gerund without any personal pronouns. Examples: "THIS UNIT IS READY FOR DEPLOYMENT", "FIXING MECHANISMS".

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 incomparably faster and stealthier. Killer cyborgs are always lurching about declaring "SER-CHING FOR HU-MANS!" and "THREAT DETECTED. MUST DESTROY!" — 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 to make sure they remember. 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 their 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 and, for a loose visual counterpart, Robo Cam.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Android R Dorothy Wayneright from The Big O and KOS-MOS from Xenosaga lack Robo Speak. However, both talk without inflections, even when Dorothy is obviously being sarcastic.
    • Both only feel fit to express emotion when they absolutely have too however, though oddly enough KOS-MOS is explicitly stated to have emotions and Dorothy is explicitly stated not to. Any casual observer would state the opposite (Dorothy is almost definitely lying or mistaken).
  • Both averted and used in Cannon God Exaxxion. The cheap, massproduction Mecha-Mooks used by the Riofaldians talk in heavy robo speak. The Terminal Drone type robots even use a more "techno"-looking font. The main character's Robot Girl partner and other robots created by his grandfather don't, since they're designed to pass for human. It averts one of the major robospeak cliches, as well. We never see the Riofaldian robots talking out loud to each other, only to organics. There's one scene that depicts a robot sending a communication requesting backup, which is represented by a speech balloon filled with what looks like barcodes.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Index seems to enter verbose debug mode whenever accessing the tomes.
    • This is also how the MISAKA Sisters talk, in addition to the whole Third-Person Person thing. Last Order aka MISAKA 20001 is an exception. Except when she's Motor Mouthing machine code due to a viral infection. And when she's saying debug information after Accelerator messes up the virus' code enough for her to think it's corrupted and reset herself.
  • In FLCL, the robotic version of Naota's father begins speaking normally, except that he puts pauses in odd places and sounds somewhat emotionless. As he continues talking, however, his voice becomes much more stuttery, the pitch varies wildly and the dialogue becomes almost nonsense.
  • Subverted and deconstructed in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex where Section 9's main robot assistants are The Tachikomas who speak and act a lot like little girls outside their professionalism on duty. They eventually come to the conclusion that humans intentionally program robots to Robo Speak to avoid empathizing with them. At which point the Tachikomas start deliberately speaking and acting more robotic around Major Kusanagi so that she'll like them more.
    • There's also a note that when they converse among themselves they really are "talking" through wireless links—it's just rendered as their normal speech for the reader/viewer's benefit. In fact, people with cybernetic enhancement also speak by wireless transmission.
    • Further lampooned in the second season, when the Tachikomas are re-introduced to the surprise of the main cast, and the first one that they see plays a prank on Batou by immediately acting very robotic and saying "HE-LLO I AM A TA-CHI-KO-MA", as if they've been brain wiped. After it manages to produce a shocked look from the entire team, it immediately reverts to giggling and talking like a 15 year old schoolgirl.
  • An interesting example is Robot Girl Aiko in Magical Pokaan. Her speech is perfectly normal, until episode 4, wherein a malfunction causes her to realistically stutter and repeat words, along with a very low buzz, similar to wet speakers. Seen here.
    "If you're just going to siiiiiiit there, -it there, at least help me bring in laundry ple-please. ....Wha-a-at's wrong? You-ou guys?"
  • Chachamaru, the Robot Girl of Negima! Magister Negi Magi, is voiced in anime by Caitlin Glass, and sounds like Data's British sister, as described at the end of this page's notes above.
    • Her pactio scene hasn't been dubbed yet, but chances are that she'll sound as emotional as she looks in that part of the manga.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
  • Father Tres, an android in Trinity Blood, speaks this way, including using "Positive" for "Yes" and "Negative" for "No", and having little to no inflection. Preferred method of attack: a fusillade of bullets from Guns Akimbo.
  • Subverted in Vandread: While the resident robot Pyoro begins speaking that way, due to an accident, he speaks in a very human way, sometimes even being hotblooded when he needs to be.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 are 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).
  • 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!
  • The Marvel Transformers comics gave the titular robots stylized speech bubbles, originally rectangles with a little starburst in each corner. The bubble design was made much more elaborate for the Generation 2 series.

    Fan Works 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Toyed with the trope when the Androids are activated:
      Dr. Gero: Well that's... new. I—
      17: I'm just messing with you, man. What's up, doc?
      17: I already did it.
      18: Ah, you dick! We were supposed to do that together!
    • Androids 19 and 16 play this straight.
  • 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!
  • In If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device, the Emperor does this when he's communicating through the titular text-to-speech device. When he's using his own voice (in flashbacks for the most part), he's voiced by Randolph Carter.
  • Lost to Dust: Sigurd, who is human, talks like a robot at times. His wife Brynhildr explains that he's a nerd and does it for fun.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Lorax (2012) features a cat version: a robot cat with a spy camera in it meows in a robotic way.
  • In WALL•E, Wall-E himself has a weird high voice and can only say his own name, Eve's (but he pronounces it Eva) and a few words. The rest of the time, he just makes noises. Played straight for Eve, who sounds feminine but definitely stilted, and zigzagged for M.O. who sometimes makes high noises and sometimes talks in a monotone and uses technical terms like "foreign contaminant".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Elysium Max gives some back to his "parole officer" after it (a robot) extends his parole for sassing some robot officers.
  • In Grandma's Boy, video-game programmer J. P. sometimes does this for no clear reason.
  • Hot Bot: The Hot Bots have a monotone and stiff speech patterns as well as a clearly synthetic voice. Bardot starts to lose hers as she gains self-awareness and her own personality.
  • 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.
  • RoboCop:
    • 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.
    • Other robots in the RoboCop world, however, play the trope straight. Notably ED-209.
  • Discussed in The Smurfs 2: Patrick starts talking to his wife Grace's fetus in a monotone and saying, "This is the sound of my voice." Grace says, "That is not the sound of your voice, that is the voice of a robot."
  • 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.
  • "Joshua" of WarGames speaks haltingly with very strange inflections on his words and a creepy warbly distortion. In real life, this was done not with text-to-speech software (which did exist at the time) but by having John Wood read his lines backward and then chopping it up and adding a filter, e.g. "Shall we play a game?" was recorded as "game?... a... play... we... Shall", and then recut and distorted.

  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "Lenny": Most robots in Dr Asimov's robot series speak with a mechanical intonation, but when LNE-prototype is manufactured, it is described to speak with "the chimes of a low-pitched celeste". Its beautiful voice shocks the first technician to test its responses. Alfred Lanning wishes they knew how to get the other robots to sound like it, too.
    • Science Fiction Favorites: When adapting "Someday", Dr Asimov chooses to include a haunting voice and reedy tone when voicing the Bard (a mechanical storytelling machine). This intonation is not clearly described in the text.
    • "Segregationist": The surgeon's lack of emotion is done very subtly in this story. When first being read, being quick without being impatient, ignoring nuances of expression, the infinite patience, and calm emphasis all imply self-control and tolerance. Once you get to the last paragraph, you discover that it's because the surgeon is a robot, so he can't do those things.
    • "Someday": The Bard's voice is stilted and mechanical, more noticeable in the Audio Adaptation, but the original story points out the hint of emotion in the last tale never showed up before.
    • "True Love": Milton is a programmer, and Joe is his experimental program. As the story progresses, Joe's dialogue gets longer, but it always retains a certain amount of fictional computer jargon, especially in the narration.
  • The Golems in Discworld: Even Though They Speak In Perfect Grammar, They Capitalize Every Letter And They Do Not Use Contractions.
  • In Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, the chapter "Artificial Intelligence: Retrospects" presents a koan randomly generated by a computer program and points out its obviously artificial aspects: no pronouns, basic and unvaried syntax, and the mention near the end of a "white, stony" object with the strange name "G0025" (a typical output of LISP's GENSYM function, which procedurally generates unique symbols for naming internal variables).
  • In one of the Just books, Andy pretends to be a robot and starts "se-pa-ra-ting his sy-lla-bles" and saying, "affirmative" and "negative".
  • Appears in the third Oz book, Ozma of Oz, with Tik-Tok, a wind-up robot (though not called that since the word was not yet in circulation) who speaks in mon-o-tone and in-flex-i-ble ca-dence. He is an early example of loyal Robot Buddy.
  • The Archos R-14 AI makes use of a computerized language in Robopocalypse.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog and the Silicon Warriors, our hero is trying to taunt a computer and has little success, until he unleashes an epic stream of invective in the spirit of this trope:
    "You vacuum tube! You low resolution one K valve driven punch-card programmed obsolete pile of junk! You nasty black and white two bit console!"
  • Replicated with hilarious results in Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King. When Roland and his companions begin to systematically deactivate a humanoid robot who has very homicidal tendencies, it begins to shout about how it will rend their flesh and otherwise mutilate them... in a completely monotone voice.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Action Central, Rob shows the audience a robot and says, "It talks like this: (robotic monotone) I like ba-na-nas."
  • The Addams Family: In "Lurch's Little Helper", the Addamses make a robot named Smiley, who speaks in a stereotypical robot voice, just a bit higher than most stereotypical robot voices.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Daleks (who are not in fact robots) tend to always announce everything that's going on. They are best known for shouting "EX-TER-MIN-ATE!" when shooting something (even to themselves, or, in the new series, in the vacuum of space where no one's going to hear it), but they also announce all their other actions: "EL-E-VATE" before using their hover abilities, or the fantastically redundant "MY VISION IS IMPAIRED; I CANNOT SEE!" when blinded.
    • The Cybus Cybermen from the same series don't use contractions, speak unemotionally in an electronically distorted voice, and overexplain everything they do.
    • In the very first appearance of the Mondas Cybermen way back in 1966, they had bizARRely INflecTED SING-song voiCES because it was assumed by the production team that that was how computers would actually speak. Fortunately it was quickly realised how ridiculous that sounded, and their more well-known buzzing monotone voices were introduced from their second appearance.
    • However, in the episode "Doomsday", the Daleks and Cybermen have an awesome Expospeak Gag Volleying Insults contest, right here. Perhaps they just cancelled each other out.
      Mickey: It's like Stephen Hawking meets the speaking clock.
    • An early attempt to create a rival to the Daleks resulted in the invention of the Mechonoids, giant spherical robots that were about as threatening and maneuverable as a garden shed. They also had voices that made the Daleks sound positively eloquent in comparison. Fortunately they never returned (except in the spinoff media).
    • Would K-9 count under this? Affirmative, mistress! Vocalizations within accepted robo-speak parameters!
    • Let's be honest here, if there's an even partially mechanical monster in a Doctor Who episode, it's invariably going to announce its killing intent in a repetitive manner.
      The Host: "Information: Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill."
    • The Daleks' speech patterns and catchphrases are often lampshaded. An example from "The Stolen Earth": when a Dalek is shot in the eyestalk with a paintball gun, it burns off the obstruction and proclaims, "My vision is NOT impaired."
    • The scene from the "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead" story, where the library's systems replay a recording of a harried survivor's last words, and edits them for content to come out in a clipped, impersonal monotone (even the screams), is probably a lampshading of this trope.
    • Averted in the episode "The Face of Evil", where the monster of the story is a computer called Xoanon. It has no voice of its own and instead speaks in the voices of multiple people, sometimes all at once - including the Doctor's own voice.
    • Possibly the ultimate aversion is the computer BOSS in "The Green Death," which not only talks in a resonant, emotional voice but even hums along to Wagner while plotting to take over the world.
    • "Deep Breath" has the Doctor lampshade robots' tendency to avoid contractions.
      Half-Face Man: "I do not see it."
      The Doctor: "I don't...I don't see it. Droids and apostrophes, I could write a book."
  • Downplayed for Hymie from Get Smart, who speaks mostly normally, but with a slightly stilted voice.
  • In Kamen Rider Kiva, the Henshin Belt of Keisuke Nago/Kamen Rider IXA is the only Heisei Belt so far that, although in Engrish, states out everything in robo speak.
    IXA Belt: Le-e-di-i. (Ready.)
    Nago: Henshin!
    IXA Belt: Fi-su-to O-n! (Fist On!)
    • When he goes to his "Rising" Super Mode, the driver turns it into four syllables. RI-I-SING-GU! You know you've got a bad case if it takes a viewer a while to realize that the device is actually speaking English. And so many Kamen Rider computer voices speak in Gratuitous English, but in an understandable enough manner that the few words they get are coherent. ("Final Vent!" "Standing by. ... Complete.")
  • The Late Late Show's Geoff Peterson before his "voice chip" was upgraded. Overlaps with Stylistic Suck since he tends to keep repeating the same phrase or two throughout the monologue leading the viewer to assume "he" can only be programmed to store a few phrases at a time.
  • Averted in Red Dwarf in which Kryten the robot and Holly the computer both talk in normal-sounding Canadian and East London accents respectively. Various appliances often appear that also talk like humans, such as Talkie Toaster.
    • However, in "Demons and Angels", Holly exclaims that "An electrical fire has knocked out my voice recognition unicycle!" and later in the episode says "The phrase 'cargo bay doors' does not appear to be in my lexicon." in a more robotic-sounding voice. Justified, in that she was damaged at the time.
    • In the episode "Inquisitor", a version of Holly in an altered timeline has no inflection to her voice. "Unauthorized entry. Intruder alert, intruder alert..."
    • Played straight in the episode "Justice". While inside the "Justice Field", any kind of criminal act (including assault) rebounds onto the criminal. The simulant attempting to kill Lister repeats, "Malfunction... does not compute..." even as Lister is goading it into continually assaulting him.
  • Star Trek:
    • Almost averted in Star Trek: The Next Generation; Data cannot use contractions, but otherwise speaks with a human-sounding voice. (He points out that his creator did this deliberately, as he'd found androids that were too perfectly human in behavior while not being completely human in appearance creeped people out).note  Soong also did it to distance Data from Lore.
      • Data did properly use some contractions in the future parts of the TNG finale "All Good Things", set 25 years after the end of the series. Of course this future was completely averted by the destruction of the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: Generations and Data's own death in Star Trek: Nemesis but it does show that he could have developed the ability over time.
      • Given that Data isn't supposed to use contractions a number of them slip through in various episodes, though presumably these are just oversights on the part of the actor/director. There were also a few that got by before it was established that contractions were taboo.
      • In the episode "Contagion," Data is infected by a computer virus that disables some of his functions. While infected, he reverts to robo-speak.
    • The ships' computers especially show the evolution of what the writers expected such a computer to sound like. In Star Trek: The Original Series, the computer's voice wouldn't sound out of place alongside Daleks and Cybermen, with. Each. Syll. A. Ble. Be. Com. Ing. Its. Own. Sen. Tence. It was very grating to listen to for any length of time and sometimes (and this goes double for any computer voice done by James Doohan in Star Trek: The Animated Series, as good as his other voices were) so slow at getting the message across that the entire sentence appearing on a screen in a handy dialog box seems more efficient by far. Fast forward to Picard's time and the computer speaks much more naturally — you'd never have guessed that Original's "Wor. King. * clicks* The. A. Pplied. Phle. Bot. In. Um. Is. In. A. No. Ther. Cas. Tle. * more clicks* Try. A. Gain." and later series' "Unable to comply. Applied Phlebotinum not found." are actually the same actress.
      • Nomad from "The Changeling" also speaks this way.
    • Star Trek: Voyager. Homaged in the Captain Proton holodeck program (an Affectionate Parody of sci-fi film serials) with Satan's Robot who always talks this way. "SUR-REND-DER!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering: The robots of Unfinity have their stilted speech rendered in all caps in the Flavor Text.

  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Illusion's H-game Artificial Girl 3 has a variety of personalities the player can assign to a girl they create, 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.
  • 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 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"
  • 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.
  • Menders and Heavy Drone B-33 from Bug Fables, being robots, speak entirely in robotic messages.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Cuphead, the game over screen taunts Dr. Kahl's Robot gives are simply robotic messages.
  • 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 A.I.s 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.
  • Disgaea: BEEP BEEP Thursday fits this trope BEEP BEEP
  • This is exactly how KAOS speaks in Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!. "Bzzzzt... Click... Kongs enemy. You must be... DESTROYED!!!"
  • 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.
  • Earth Bound, to an extent. The Starmen (technically not robots but aliens) speak for the most part in normal English 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 katakana.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Star Resistance: The Shakun Star main computer speaks in a heavy digital voice upon activation.
  • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade has Roy fighting an Artificial Dragon in chapter 12. Fittingly enough, said dragon speaks in a stilted, monotone voice represented in Japanese by katakana.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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!)
  • 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.
  • Mega Man games:
  • While Sprockett and Hubbs the robots from Moshi Monsters speak gibberish like everyone else, their gibberish sounds a lot more robotic and monotonous than the gibberish other characters speak.
  • Mother 3 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.
  • No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle has Dr. Letz Shake, a previously-unfought enemy from the first game but rebuilt into a giant robot carapace. In addition to an (admittedly quite loud) Machine Monotone, he also verbally expresses his mood, intonation, and punctuation aloud.
    "Who is my next victim. Question mark. Surprised gasp. [...] Do you remember me. Question mark."
  • 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.
  • Averted with Yumemi Hoshino in Planetarian.
  • 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.
  • Sonic The Hedgehog:
    • 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."
    • 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.
  • 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'!"
  • Starcraft II has damaged Dominion Adjutant and Raven speaking like this.
  • Cammy, Juli and Juni use Robo Speak in Street Fighter Alpha 3, when they're brainwashed.
  • Torkdrift in Super Mario Odyssey only says two lines before its boss battle, but those two lines are about as robotic as you can get. ""FLOWERS FLOWERS FLOWERS. MUST HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS. DO NOT MESS WITH ME BIPED".
    • Similarly, the Steam Gardener NPCs in the same kingdom also speak in very robotic ways. No all caps, but a lot of very formal lines, as well as computer dialogue like "Initiating first greeting dialogue".
  • 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 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"
  • The mechanoids in Thief II: The Metal Age. Particularly creepy in that, when idling or patrolling, they spout religious phrases.
  • In Undertale, Mettaton's dialogue is in ALL CAPS, but is nevertheless very eloquent and charming for a character who's ostensibly a killer robot.
  • The Fallout fanchise often plays with this trope. Most bots usually speak like this, particularly those designed for combat and war, such as Protectrons, Assaultrons and Sentinels. Liberty Prime and the Securitrons show more emotion in their dialogue, but still speak like ina fairly stilted way, with Liberty Prime's dialogue in particular being filled with pro-American, anti-communist propaganda. Modified Protectrons and combat robots have more varied dialogue and show some more expression, but can still revert to Robo Speak whenever they get hacked or encounter an error in their software and Protectrons in particular almost always have a Machine Monotone.
    • Mister Handies, Mister Gutsies and Miss Nannies completely avert this, having fully expressive voices. This is justified, because they were meant to better endear themselves to their human masters, and also because many of these models actually Grew Beyond Their Programming long after the end of the war, with Codsworth being a notable example. Synths also avert Robo Speak. Another major exception are Robobrains, which makes sense considering they are powered by human brains, but they still engage in some playful robo speak for fun.
      • Yes Man, a modified Securitron from Fallout: New Vegas is another major avertion of the trope, as his dialogue is almost always cheerful and joyous (some lines do suggest he can be passive-aggressive toward the things he dislikes, however) and there are also some other modified Securitrons with more human-like dialogue.
  • Mass Effect: Doesn't happen often, due to the Virtual Intelligences in the setting usually having pretty good programming, but they can occasionally slip up.
    • A few adverts in Mass Effect 2 slip into this when trying to chat up Shepard, noting that last year they earned "zero" credits (on account of being dead).
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The Avina in the Nexus Commons slips into this the first time Ryder gets there, since the area is nigh-abandoned and being a VI, hasn't been programmed to notice this, so when asked, she gives the timescale for project completion.
      Avina: Estimated time to completion is UNKNOWN ERROR.
  • Nordom from Planescape: Torment speaks in this way due to being a rogue Modron, a species of metaphysical beings that embody the concept of order through the phenomena of machinery, although he also uses some Spock Speak as well. Designer notes indicate that the idea behind his dialogue was to invoke a "Speak 'n' spell on crack".
  • The Void Rains Upon Her Heart: Unit Lulu's speech sounds artificial, as she tends to have dialogue like "Suggestion: ___", and refers to herself as "this unit".
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Downplayed; while in the past GAIA spoke in an obviously mechanical way, often prefacing question with "Query" for clarity, that has faded by Aloy's time. Aloy finds a twenty year-old recording where GAIA speaks precisely and carefully, but if you didn't know she was a machine you wouldn't notice anything odd.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 3: Segiri speaks in a stilted, almost monotone way, using precise wording and clear language. For bonus points, she is descended from Machina (though the Machina didn't speak like this in the previous game). It's implied that this is a result of her being raised as even more of a Child Soldier than usual, a member of the Secret Police trained to perpetuate the Forever War. This implication turns out to be completely wrong, as no one else in her colony speaks like this. Even her identical twin sister speaks in a much more natural and emotive fashion.

    Web Animation 
  • In Planet Dolan, Ladybot sometimes speaks in a feminine, monotonous voice, fitting her name and nature as a Fembot.

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • The monstrous TI-83 in College Saga intones: "Syntax error. Deleting user."

    Western Animation 
  • 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".
  • Red Tornado in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. His Mirror Universe counterpart even prefaces a reveal with "Revelation:"
  • 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.
  • 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 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), "Look into your hard drive, and open 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 "The Farnsworth Parabox", Leela crosses into a parallel universe where the main cast are robots. Robo-Fry asks her for a date; she responds "Access denied" in a monotone, which makes Robo-Fry's head explode.
  • 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.
  • 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:
      Julien: Uh, hey, everybody! Stop having fun, because I am boring! And you should be boring too!
      Maurice: I do NOT talk like that!
      Julien: Yes. You. Do.
      Maurice: Now that's just your robot voice.
      Julien: End. Transmission.
  • 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?"
  • Transformers:
    • 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 Catchphrase. 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.
    • Computron did this as well, though in his case it's due to his supercomputer-like mind cataloging and processing his situation and his next move.
    • 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 Transformers: Rescue Bots, the Bots have to resort to speaking this way whenever they are in the presence of civilians in order to give the impression they're machines and not sentient robots from another planet. This is a recurring theme throughout the first season, until the episode "Shake-Up", when Frankie is trapped in a collapsing tunnel with Heatwave and he is forced to blow his cover to protect her by yelling at Boulder to stop creating sonic waves in his normal voice. Lucky for him, Frankie was unconscious at the time, and doesn't fully hear the Bots speaking normally until the first season finale. Chase is also shown to have a painfully loud robotic singing voice.

    Real Life 
  • The "announce every action using participial phrases" version of this trope may be based on computer log files, whose purpose is to record actions to make it easier to troubleshoot problems and for accountability. Many command-line programs have a "verbose" mode which essentially outputs these logs onscreen in real time.
  • 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 ("concatenated") from a real voice actor/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.
    • "Software Automatic Mouth", or SAM, from the Commodore 64 was perhaps the first true voice synthesizer, that is it actually was capable of saying anything rather than relying on a library of words it could pick and choose from. Unsurprisingly, it sounded frigging creepy and most people used it to say dirty words. Give it a try.
  • 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.
  • GoAnimate famously has a wide array of text-to-speech voices for use in videos; while many of these sound perfectly fine, and even pretty good when given the 'right' sentences to read, their mechanical nature does shine through every once in a while; typing in All Caps sometimes has the "Eric" TTS voice reading a sentence perfectly until it comes to the word 'It', which it reads out as if it were an initialism, while "Julie" speaks with an unusually higher tone for certain phrases, such as "That's it", "Goodbye" or "Let's go".
  • Stephen Hawking's famous near-monotone voice synthesizer. He turned down many offers to improve and humanise the voice, saying that it's become the voice that people expect him to have and out of affection and gratitude for its original creator Dennis H. Klatt as it was based on Klatt's own voice. 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.


Video Example(s):


Rank #10

The 10th-ranked assassin is a giant machine with a human brain, who is prone to voicing his mood, inflection and punctuation in his dialogue. He even later tosses in the classic "Affirmative".

How well does it match the trope?

4.71 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / RoboSpeak

Media sources: