Too busy to read? Tap or click below to listen to the story in just 1 minute.
Why are virtual assistants female?
Here’s something interesting to think about … pick a voice assistant, any assistant. Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana.
What do they all have in common? Yep, they all have a female voice by default, and most even have female names.
The keyword there is default, since you can change the setting on some voice assistants to be male. You can also choose different accents among other things.
But why are voice assistants female by default? It seems people respond more positively to a woman’s voice, even if it’s robotic.
Then, of course, there are the arguments about age-old gender stereotypes. You remember some of them, right? A woman’s voice is more welcoming or nurturing, while a man’s voice is more authoritative, which would be better for things like security systems and such.
Q is trying to change perception
Regardless of the reasons why voice assistants are female, one company is trying to change the technology. Along comes Q, which is being promoted as the world’s first genderless voice for artificial intelligence (AI) systems.
But you won’t find it in a smart speaker, at least not yet. It was created by Vice’s creative agency called Virtue Nordic. Check out the video below for a taste:
Q was created by sampling real voices, recording two dozen people in the process and then testing the results. Creators sent four variations to get feedback from more than 4,000 people before deciding on the final version.
Here’s what they found: sound between 145 and 175 Hertz tends to be perceived as more gender neutral. Now they want big companies to take notice.
The question is, will the platform be adopted by any existing companies or startups? But if there turns out to be a huge demand for something like this, I’m sure companies like Google and Amazon will come up with their own versions to save a little coin.