Talking Buses Bust Into Town

On a recent trip to England, Vilnius Life's scribbler was struck by a certain robotic tendency in public places. Now, before you get the wrong impression, we're not suggesting that aliens had come down and turned the Brits into cyber-bots. No, not quite that dramatic. Not yet anyway.

In fact, the scenario was a bit more like Hal in 2001 Space Odyssey or Racheal from Bladerunner. Talking computers seemed to rule the roost wherever you turned. Gone were the trusty announcements at train stations by kindly old stationmasters. Instead, you had a slightly unnerving simulated voice that sounded just a little too nice for comfort. 'The next train is for ( awkward automated pause ) Basingstoke. Platform 4 for (awkward automated pause) Basingstoke.' She's a replicant I tell you! Call Harrison Ford quick - the planet's in peril!

Let's face it, soon you won't be able to walk past a mirror without being told to brush your hair. And a walk down the street will be ruined by a mysterious voice informing you that your gas-bill is late, or that you're wearing a stupid hat. Such is the future, dear readers. But anyway, we're really drifting a long way from the point of this article, so we'd better backtrack quick. The point is, Vilnius is currently the guinea-pig for a new programme. And we should concede here that this particular programme isn't excessively alarming (even though it might be trying at 8 in the morning). What's happening is that the the EU has introduced some language buses so that punters on their way to work can learn some handy lingos.

Here in the Lithuanian capital, Polish and English services have been introduced on certain lines. Besides hearing automated tips on how to speak the basics, keenos can hand in worksheets to the driver, who promises not to throw them in the bin.

The EU project will soon be launched elsewhere. In Hamburg, services in English and Turkish are in the pipeline, whilst in Milan, Spanish has been chosen as the lingua franca. Vilnius Life is tentatively welcoming the bus scheme. That said, we reserve the right to say I told you so when the buses decide they're too clever for transport and choose to take over the world instead. The end is nigh...!


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