A layperson’s exploration of all things voice

May 31, 2019

A “Genderless” Voice? Is That Possible?

Recently, I blogged about your ability – or inability in some cases – the change the gender of your voice assistant. This “Wired” article notes that a group of linguists, technologists, and sound designers — led by Copenhagen Pride and Vice’s creative agency Virtue — are trying to create a genderless digital voice, made from real voices, that they call “Q.” Here’s an excerpt from the article (also see this NPR piece):

The project is confronting a new digital universe fraught with problems. It’s no accident that Siri and Cortana and Alexa all have female voices — research shows that users react more positively to them than they would to a male voice. But as designers make that choice, they run the risk of reinforcing gender stereotypes: that female voice assistants should be helpful & caring, while machines like security robots should have a male voice to telegraph authority.

While this isn’t the first attempt to craft a gender-neutral voice, with Q, the thinking goes, we can not only make technology more inclusive but also use that technology to spark conversation on social issues.