Audio

Can you identify the voice of SMRT-1?

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This morning I was recalling and researching another piece of classic EPCOT — Communicore’s SMRT-1. As you might recall, the adorable robot acted as a demonstration of voice recognition technology by playing games with guests. In one example, SMRT-1 would display a list of animals on a piezoelectric display board and ask the player to select one. He would then ask the player a series of yes or no questions through a telephone handset to arrive at the answer.

Many Disney fan sites describe SMRT-1 as having a “synthesized” voice, but if you know anything about the voice synthesis technology available at the time, it’s obvious that this is unlikely, as synthesized voices at the time were almost entirely without inflection. (Communicore did have a demonstration of what was then state-of-the-art voice synthesis in AT&T’s “FutureCom,” where two “Phrazer” consoles were available for guests to test out.)

I was able to track down a clear recording of SMRT-1 at Mike Lee’s excellent Widen Your World website (http://www.omniluxe.net/wyw/cmcr.htm) and after reviewing the file it became clear that SMRT-1’s voice was nothing more than a human actor’s slightly sped up to increase the pitch, perhaps with some minimal processing, a technique that continued to be used in the parks in later attractions like Star Tours.

Which leads us to a challenge: by slowing down the recording we can restore it to its normal pitch and reveal the original voice of the actor. Can anyone identify who the actor is? It could be a professional voice actor, but it’s just as likely someone who worked for WED at the time.

Here’s the slowed down file:


[phpbay]EPCOT SMRT1 SMRT-1, 5[/phpbay]

3 Comments

  1. Ben

    April 21, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    It almost sounds like Larry Dobkin to me. Background noise makes identification even more difficult, of course. Interesting puzzle…

  2. Bob R

    August 9, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    I know you were recording with better quality equipment than the microphone on our JVC VHS-C camcorder, but that sounds like a completely different voice than my father recorded of SMRT-1 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdsD1cSKG44

    1. How Bowers

      August 10, 2018 at 8:11 am

      As stated in the description, the recording here was altered to revel the unprocessed sound of the original actor. If you follow the link to Mike Lee’s site, you can hear the unaltered version, which is closer to what your father recorded.

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