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Gender neutral AI voice developed to tackle Siri and Alexa stereotypes

When we chat with personal assistants like Apple’s Siri, we give her commands and she responds to them. Same goes for Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

While no piece of technology has a gender, those female voices had led us to, somewhat strangely, assign them to the AI tools. While Apple and Google do give users the option to choose a male voice, the default option is still female, and tools to change them aren’t placed front and centre.

Now a group of researchers is looking to change that by launching the first non-binary personal assistant, which it says has a genderless voice. The voice is called Q and was created after researchers recorded the voices of people who identify as non-binary. The results were tested on 4,600 subjects, who selected the voice they deemed to be genderless.

Related: Google Assistant vs Amazon Alexa

The pitch, tone and format filter of the voice was all altered, with researchers claiming the range of 145- and 175-hertz best represents a gender neutral frequency.

It was developed by researchers at Copenhagen Pride, who worked with the Equal AI equality campaign group and the Virtue creative agency. The hope is that the big AI players will seek to adopt a gender-free voice for their own personal assistant, to help dispel stereotypes women are seen as more helpful, nurturing and caring.

The group also worries the use of female voices is because of the association with administrative roles. We’d also speculate the big companies choose women’s voices because people are still terrified by the Terminator movies and the perceived existential threat of AI proliferation.

“Companies turn to different research that tells them people expect a female voice,” said Julie Carpenter, one of the researchers behind Project Q (via Mail Online). “Sometimes we go back to these stereotypes and what happens is we’re reinforcing them. We’re not changing them.

“Q adds to a global discussion about who is designing gendered technology, why those choices are made, and how people feed into expectations about things like trustworthiness, intelligence, and reliability of a technology based on cultural biases rooted in their belief system about groups of people.

“Q is a step forward in true innovation because it forces a critical examination of these belief systems.”

Do you think it’s only right that AI voices should be gender neutral? Or is it more about giving consumers more choice and making those choices more accessible? Let us know @TrustedReviews on Twitter.