Google Assistant is getting a second, gender neutral voice

Google Assistant is getting a second, gender neutral voice option in nine different countries. 

Google is introducing new voice assistant voices this week, but which one you hear first will depend on where you live. The voice assistants have been programmed using the same state of the art WaveNet technology from AI researcher DeepMind used in previous iterations of the assistant but the naming system is being changed up.

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Rather than giving the voices traditionally gendered names, Google has taken to naming its new voice options after colours.

‘Red’ and ‘orange’ will be available in nine languages including German, French, Dutch, Norwegian, Italian, Korean and Japanese, as well as British and Indian English in their respective countries. The colours will be randomly assigned, meaning each country will have a 50/50 chance of hearing the ‘red’ or the ‘orange’ voice when they say “OK, Google”.

That said, Google is encouraging users to experiment with different voices to find the one that suits them best.

“We’ve learned that people enjoy choosing between voices to find the one that sounds right to them, and we think it’s important to present these voices to you without any labels”, explained the company in a blog post.

This isn’t the first time Google has used WaveNet tech to switch up its voice assistant. The US got a whole new wave of voices in May 2018, with the company even getting John Legend on board to answer pressing questions like “Are you John Legend?”, “What’s your favourite type of music?” and “Who is Chrissy Teigen?”.

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The company also isn’t the first AI-maker to take a stand against gender stereotypes in voice assistants, but the colour-naming system does feel like a step in a positive direction for the high-profile smart assistant.

Google announced the update earlier today, with the new voices expected to roll out throughout the remainder of the week.

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