• 2024.05.14
  • Imagining a virtual world
I’ve had many struggles with the language since I started living in Italy, and one of the more difficult ones is dealing with customer service on the phone.

The problem is that as soon as the interactive voice menu starts, my head spins trying to figure out which option I need—and before I can figure it out, the recording is over. The friendlier ones replay the menu options after a bit of silence, which gives me time to think while it’s on repeat—but they’re not all like that. The worst is when I select an option not knowing whether it’s the right one, and it pushes me into the next step with yet another menu. And sometimes, as soon as I start thinking about the new options, it kicks me back to the original menu. Even when I just want to ask a simple question, that curt, one-sided voice menu makes me end up frustrated and giving up halfway most of the time.

Maybe now that we’ve entered the AI age, they’ll use it to develop a voice menu that’s easier for foreign residents to use…

In any case, the internet has made the importance of interactive voice menus fade, which has definitely lowered my stress levels.

Now that I think of it, reserving a taxi can now be done through an app, but back then it required an interactive voice menu.

The recording would tell you to say your address, and my phobia of voice menus would make me freeze up. Then a robotic voice would come on and say, “I don’t understand. Please say your address again.”

I felt like it was basically telling me my pronunciation was bad, and I have awful memories of it—whether it’s the dark humor or my foul mood or just feeling pathetic.

If it was a sweet AI voice, maybe it would help me out by saying something like, “Did you say the address was XX? Let me try saying it back to you.”

By the way, I heard that they opened a metaverse wine bar in Bergamo, which is about 50 kilometers from Milan. Does that mean people are drinking wine in a virtual space?

According to the article, AI helps you select a wine and recommends food that would pair well with it.

Does that mean that sommeliers no longer need to study wine?

Those questions aside, a visit to the wine bar includes fun virtual experiences like events and games, though it’s probably more a part of what they’re selling than “included”. The article didn’t share any details about the games so I don’t know for sure, but the main thing that caught my attention was tasting wine in a virtual space.

I guess it depends on how real and how virtual the “virtual tasting” is, but as someone with very little metaverse experience, it’s a bit hard for me to picture.

If I could enjoy the aroma and flavor—or even get a little buzz—without actually drinking wine, that might not be so bad. But all joking aside, I guess it’s just something I have to actually experience.

Unfortunately though, this wine bar is apparently only open to very exclusive VIPs…


  • Yuriko Mikami
  • JobMusician

A cellist based in Milan. Performs as a soloist also with some ensembles. Has a wide range of genres from classic to pop. Actually plays in a band on an Italian comedian's TV show.

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