Imagine, if you will, a disembodied, mechanical head speaking to you in a monotonous and eerie voice. No, it's not the customer service line of your wireless carrier – it was Euphonia, a so-called talking machine built by Joseph Faber in the mid 1800's.
Faber researched the anatomy of human speech and fabricated mechanical parts after them. Then he assembled a machine consisting of bellows, pedals, chambers and even an artificial glottis. The operator used 16 keys corresponding to consonants and vowels, and in the proper hands it could recreate any European language in whisper, conversational voice or song.
It seems that people were a little creeped out by this robotic talking woman – or perhaps by Faber, too, who was reported to be an eccentric. Although not many people flocked to see his creation, Faber's Euphonia influenced technology of the day and may have helped inspire the telephone.