Sorry, Team “Yanny” – AI says it’s “Laurel”


Back in 2015, the internet was in an uproar over the phenomenon known as “The Dress” – a seemingly innocuous photo of a black and blue (or was it white and gold?) dress that prompted experts to investigate the science behind human vision and color perception. This week, a new sensation has ignited another fiery debate.

While studying for an exam, a high school freshman found an audio clip for the world “laurel” on – except to her, it didn’t sound like “laurel” at all. The recording was posted to Reddit and chaos ensued. The sound bite left listeners astonished that they could hear something so entirely different than the person sitting next to them.


So, is it Laurel or Yanny? The audio clip that has divided the world finally has an answer. Well, another perspective at least. And this one is backed by artificial intelligence.

We used our Dragon platform, the speech recognition software behind many Intelligent Assistants in the car, on TVs, IoT devices, and beyond, to find out what it would make of the clip. The result was “Laurel,” without a doubt.

Nils Lenke, senior director of corporate research at Nuance, said: “Dragon hears ‘Laurel.’ Speech recognition technology today is based on artificial neural networks that are supposed to mimic the way the human brain works. We train these networks on thousands of hours of human speech, so it can learn how the phonemes – the smallest building blocks of language – are pronounced. But it is clearly not an exact copy of how we as humans hear and interpret sounds, as this example shows. So, we can all still feel “special”– especially those who hear ‘Yanny’!”

Artificial intelligence stands with Laurel. Maybe those of us in camp Yanny will be on the right side of technology for the next viral controversy.

Dayna McCoubrey

About Dayna McCoubrey

In her role as Communications Specialist, Dayna supports Nuance’s four divisions, offering her writing, research, and editing skills to the Corporate Communications team. Dayna earned her B.A. from Connecticut College in 2014, where she was an English language and literature major and an anthropology minor. Dayna is a big fan of coffee, donuts, and her cats, Chicken and Hugo.