Ebert test

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Ebert (right) at the Conference on World Affairs in September 2002, shortly after his cancer diagnosis

The Ebert test gauges whether a computer-based synthesized voice[1][2] can tell a joke with sufficient skill to cause people to laugh.[3] It was proposed by film critic Roger Ebert at the 2011 TED conference as a challenge to software developers to have a computerized voice master the inflections, delivery, timing, and intonations of a speaking human.[1] The test is similar to the Turing test proposed by Alan Turing in 1950 as a way to gauge a computer's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior by generating performance indistinguishable from a human being.[4]

If the computer can successfully tell a joke, and do the timing and delivery as well as Henny Youngman, then that’s the voice I want.

— Ebert in 2011[2]

Ebert lost his voice after surgery to treat cancer. He employed a Scottish company called CereProc, which custom-tailors text-to-speech software for voiceless customers who record their voices at length before losing them, and mined tapes and DVD commentaries featuring Ebert to create a voice that sounded more like his own voice.[5] He first publicly used the voice they devised for him in his March 2, 2010 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.[2][6][7]


  1. ^ a b Adam Ostrow (March 5, 2011). "Roger Ebert's Inspiring Digital Transformation". Mashable Entertainment. Retrieved 2011-09-12. With the help of his wife, two colleagues and the Alex-equipped MacBook that he uses to generate his computerized voice, famed film critic Roger Ebert delivered the final talk at the TED conference on Friday in Long Beach, California....
  2. ^ a b c JENNIFER 8. LEE (March 7, 2011). "Roger Ebert Tests His Vocal Cords, and Comedic Delivery". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-12. Now perhaps, there is the Ebert Test, a way to see if a synthesized voice can deliver humor with the timing to make an audience laugh.... He proposed the Ebert Test as a way to gauge the humanness of a synthesized voice.
  3. ^ "Roger Ebert's Inspiring Digital Transformation". Tech News. March 5, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-12. Meanwhile, the technology that enables Ebert to “speak” continues to see improvements – for example, adding more realistic inflection for question marks and exclamation points. In a test of that, which Ebert called the “Ebert test” for computerized voices,
  4. ^ Alex_Pasternack (Apr 18, 2011). "A MacBook May Have Given Roger Ebert His Voice, But An iPod Saved His Life (Video)". Motherboard. Retrieved 2011-09-12. He calls it the “Ebert Test,” after Turing’s AI standard...
  5. ^ Jones, Chris. "Roger Ebert: The Essential Man". Esquire magazine. February 16, 2010]
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Hello, this is me speaking" rogerebert.suntimes.com, March 5, 2010
  7. ^ Tucker, Ken. "'Oprah': Roger Ebert predicts the Oscars, movingly: 'No more surgery for me'". Entertainment Weekly. March 2, 2010

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