Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Yoda lives on my desktop!

Apple-using LanguageLog readers may be interested in the following extremely weird Dashboard widget:


(For the uninitiated: Dashboard widgets are little mini-applications that just run in the background of OS 10.4 ('Tiger'), doing various useful or fun things, like telling you the weather, or the price of gas in your area, or making Pong available for slow moments. I just started exploring the plethora of widgets that are available at the Apple site today, and ran across Yoda, here.)

Here's the description of the widget provided on the site:
About Yoda Widget
The Yoda Widget simply lets you enter a sentence into a text box, you hit enter, the widget reorders the words and uses a system voice to speak the generated text out loud. For example: you type "I am Yoda." and Yoda will say "Yoda, I am".
This widget changes the order of the words in the sentence that you type in. The voice that is used to speak the text relies on the voices provided by the Mac OS.
Tips: There is no definite pattern on the sentence structure that Yoda uses.
Sentences containing verbs such as ”to have” or ”to be” work well.
Sentences containing subjects like ”I”, ”you” , ”we”, etc. work well too.
If your sentence is a question, make sure you add a question mark.
Examples: Here are a few examples.
- I am Yoda -> Yoda, I am
- The clone wars have begun -> begun, the clone wars have
- Are you going home? -> going home, are you?

What’s New in this Version
- Changed the default voice to “Whisper” upon user requests. If you prefer a different default voice, you can choose another one in the widget’s preferences.
- Improved the word-reordering-algorithm.
- Many more enhancements
The 'Whisper' voice is a pretty good imitation of Yoda on his deathbead ("No... there...is...another...Skywalker..."), but the algorithm for word-reordering doesn't seem super great... it turned "What time is it?" to "What? it time is", when the Force tells me Yoda would really say "It is what time?" (actually, Yoda's probably not into schedules). It seems to refuse to reorder many sentences; I can't get it to do anything with "Your algorithm isn't very good" (it just repeats it back to me), although "Your algorithm is not very good" generates an authentic-sounding "Very good, your algorithm is not." Maybe it doesn't like contractions.

Anyway, I wonder if the widgeteers used the expert analysis of Yoda's linguistic patterns, freely available through the goodness of the Language Loggers', and other linguabloggers', hearts, in the construction of their algorithm? You can't just go wantonly reverse-engineering Yodaspeak any old way you want when there's highly trained linguists who're willing to do it for you.

Update: Check out the musical homage to widget Yoda from Q Pheever!


Blogger Mel Slabaugh said...

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10:21 AM  
Blogger natan07 said...

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10:23 AM  
Blogger Melanie Alamo said...

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10:28 AM  
Blogger afp763389 said...

... :)

10:41 AM  
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