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.
For most people who talk to our technology -- whether it's Amazon's Alexa, Apple Siri or the Google Assistant -- the voice that talks back sounds female. Some people do choose to hear a male voice. Now, researchers have unveiled a new gender-neutral option: Q. "One of our big goals with Q was to contribute to a global conversation about gender, and about gender and technology and ethics, and how to be inclusive for people that identify in all sorts of different ways," says Julie Carpenter, an expert in human behavior and emerging technologies who worked on developing Project Q. The voice of Q was developed by a team of researchers, sound designers and linguists in conjunction with the organizers of Copenhagen Pride week, technology leaders in an initiative called Equal AI and others. They first recorded dozens of voices of people -- those who identify as male, female, transgender or nonbinary.
In a world of female chatbots, one program has dared to refer to itself as'binary'. Named Eno, the gender-neutral virtual assistant was created by Capital One to help the bank's customers'manage their money by texting in a conversational way'. The robot is powered with artificial intelligence, allowing it to understand natural language, and when asked if it is a male or female, it responds'binary'. In a world of female chatbots, one program dares to refer to itself as'binary'. Named Eno, the gender-neutral virtual assistant was created by Capital One Financial Corp to help the bank's customers'manage their money by texting in a conversational way' Capital One Financial Corp has unveiled a chatbot to'help the bank's customers'manage their money by texting in a conversational way'.
Technology promises a future that isn't tied down by the limitations of flesh. Communication travels further and faster than legs can run, and data beamed into space will live longer than any of its creators. Devices that respond to our voices make hands less necessary. But the digital assistants many of us rely on inadvertently perpetuate the old restrictions of the human form. If Siri has no body, why does she sound like a woman?
In a world occupied by Siri, Cortana and Alexa, Google Assistant is a bit of an anomaly. It's the first widely used voice assistant to eschew a female name, which the company reportedly did to avoid giving it a personality. The company would rather you imagined yourself talking directly to "Google the search engine" than a go-between. Avoiding a gendered name just happened to be a happy coincidence, it seems. Despite Google (perhaps unintentionally) shunning obvious sexism in its AI, it still fell into the gender bias trap by giving Assistant a female voice.