The Push For A Gender-Neutral Siri

NPR Technology

Siri, Alexa and Cortana all started out as female. Now a group of marketing executives, tech experts and academics are trying to make virtual assistants more egalitarian. Siri, Alexa and Cortana all started out as female. Now a group of marketing executives, tech experts and academics are trying to make virtual assistants more egalitarian. Have you ever noticed something most virtual assistants have in common?


Where are all the male AI voice assistants?

#artificialintelligence

If you were to ask your device with an AI voice assistant a random question, what gender would respond to you? Female most likely, and that's because only female artificial intelligence assistants have been developed. Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant all have female voices. Apple's Siri also started as female only, but added a male voice option three years ago, even though the female voice is still the default. It might be easy to think that female AI voices have been the go-to because of sexism -- lots of men in leadership and developer roles at Silicon Valley -- and that may be at play, but there's more to it. Two studies recently cited by The Wall Street Journal show that men and women prefer a female voice assistant because they believe it's more welcoming and understanding.


Where Are All The Male AI Voice Assistants?

#artificialintelligence

If you were to ask your device with an AI voice assistant a random question, what gender would respond to you? Female most likely, and that's because only female artificial intelligence assistants have been developed. Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant all have female voices. Apple's Siri also started as female only, but added a male voice option three years ago, even though the female voice is still the default. It might be easy to think that female AI voices have been the go-to because of sexism -- lots of men in leadership and developer roles at Silicon Valley -- and that may be at play, but there's more to it. Two studies recently cited by The Wall Street Journal show that men and women prefer a female voice assistant because they believe it's more welcoming and understanding.


Why Are Virtual Assistants Female

#artificialintelligence

Hearing the young daughter of a friend demanding answers from Amazon's virtual assistant, Alexa, gave me pause for thought, particularly during Women's Month. As writer Chandra Steel points out, our experiences with AI can teach and train it, but we are also shaped by these interactions. So,how is always having a compliant female virtual assistant shaping us? "Someone on TV has only to say, 'Alexa,' and she lights up. USC Sociology Professor SafiyaUmoja Noble says virtual assistants have produced a rise of command-based speech at women's voices. 'Siri, find me [fill in the blank]' is something that children may learn to do as they play with smart devices. This is a powerful socialization tool that teaches us about the role of women, girls, and people who are gendered female to respond on demand."


Adios, Alexa: why must our robot assistants be female?

The Guardian

Microsoft has Cortana, Amazon has Alexa, and Google has … well, Google Assistant. That last name doesn't give it away, but get it talking and the common link between all three AI assistants is revealed: they are all supposed to be women. Providing assistance has long been considered a woman's role, whether virtual or physical, fictional or real. The robots that men voice, meanwhile, tend to be in positions of power – often dangerously so. Think Hal 9000, or the Terminator: when a robot needs to be scary, it sounds like a man.