Is it time for Alexa and Siri to have a "MeToo moment"?

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More people will speak to a voice assistance machine than to their partners in the next five years, the U.N. says, so it matters what they have to say. The numbers are eye-popping: 85% of Americans use at least one product with artificial intelligence (AI), and global use will reach 1.8 billion by 2021, so the impact of these "robot overlords" is unparalleled. But (AI) voice assistants, including Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana, and Google's Assistant are inflaming gender stereotypes and teaching sexism to a generation of millennials by creating a model of "docile and eager-to-please helpers," with acceptance of sexual harassment and verbal abuse, a new U.N. study says. A 145-page U.N. report published this week by the educational, scientific and cultural organization UNESCO concludes that the voices we speak to are programmed to be submissive and accept abuse as a norm. The report is titled, "I'd blush if I could: Closing Gender Divides in Digital Skills Through Education."


Startup launches world's first genderless AI to fight bias in smart assistants

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Talk to Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa and you'll notice a common trait: They both have female voices. While this can help make robotic assistants more relatable and natural to converse with, it has assigned a gender to a technology that's otherwise genderless. Now, researchers are hoping to offer a new alternative by launching what they're calling the world's first'genderless voice.' To create'Q', researchers recorded voices from participants who identify as non-binary, or neither exclusively female nor male. Researchers then tested the voice on 4,600 people across Europe.


Why It Matters That Alexa and Google Assistant Finally Have Male Voices

Slate

Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant are all female. The topic has been much discussed and researched in recent years, with data offering as one explanation for the phenomenon that both men and women prefer the sound of female voices. "They're warmer and more relatable, and make people receptive to voice-activated technology," Fast Company explained in March. Many virtual assistant users (and critics) weren't satisfied--why is that we're so OK bossing around a female voice and not a male one? Writing for the Atlantic in 2016, Adrienne LaFrance said, "The simplest explanation is that people are conditioned to expect women, not men, to be in administrative roles--and that the makers of digital assistants are influenced by these social expectations."



How voice-assisted commerce is speaking up in retail

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By the end of 2021, more than 1.6 billion people will use voice assistants on a regular basis, and it is certain they will want to do more than ask about the weather or hear their favourite song. Such assistants will provide retailers with an unprecedented opportunity as consumers use them to find, research and buy products. For this reason, exploring how voice assistants can improve the customer experience is a core focus for many retailers right now. Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) is powering voice technology systems and be it Alexa, Siri or Google Home, these platforms are enabling customers to interact with brands in ways that are not only convenient but also highly personalised and contextualised. In a conversational AI world, virtual assistants will search, open, fetch, command and engage the dozen or more websites, portals, apps and systems we all interact with daily.