Voice assistants have become extremely popular in recent times. The COVID pandemic has made their use even more widespread. Since most people were at home, and many of them were alone, they found a friend in voice assistants to help them in their daily tasks.
Voice assistants can help with a variety of tasks – whether it is searching for information on the internet, playing your favourite song or even telling a joke. Ask Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant about today’s weather. What do you notice about their voice when they respond? They are all women. But why are all voice assistants female?
According to Salesforce Research, 92% of business users rely on a virtual assistant to search for information, with 75% using them to set reminders and 61% sending emails through them.
Tech giants choose female voice assistants primarily for two reasons. Firstly, humans perceive a woman to be helpful, supportive, and trustworthy. These are all ideal human qualities that we look for in a friend.
Secondly, customers relate well with female voice assistants who sound competent, efficient, and reliable. This is because female assistant voices are closer to a person’s real-life experiences of being assisted by females (mothers) in their family. Think about the person who wakes you up for school or the one who prepares your meal or the one who puts you to sleep. Most people will say that it is a female, most likely their mother.
Amazon spokesperson told PCMag, “We tested many voices with our internal beta program and customers before launching, and this voice tested best.” According to Psychologist James W. Pennebaker, a woman uses more pronouns and tentative words than men. This means that if the digital assistant does not know something, then they can easily say, ‘I am sorry I don’t understand.’ Hence, for this sentence to sound relevant and familiar, the voice of a digital assistant is female.
There are other possibilities. Some researchers believe women tend to articulate vowel sounds more clearly, or that the pitch of a woman’s voice is easier to hear. While these are tenuous arguments, they may have been the reason behind the decision to use women’s voices in early developmental efforts.
Though using a female voice assistant is a marker of a patriarchal society where women are perceived to be more assisting than men, some folks believe that having a gender-neutral digital assistant would be better than having a female one. Do you know how Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant respond when we ask them about their gender? Have a look at their responses below:
|What is your gender?||Animals and French nouns have genders. I do not.; I don’t have a gender; I am genderless. Like cacti. And certain species of fish.||As an AI, I don’t have a gender.||Well, technically I’m a cloud of infinitesimal data computation.||I don’t have a gender.|
To allow customers to choose the gender of their choice, these tech companies (Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google for Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant respectively) have now provided an option of selecting a male voice as well. So whether you use Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or Google Assistant, you can now select your preferred voice for your assistant.
Do you think this is an important feature for companies to maintain and enhance? Would you like to explore this feature for your voice assistants? Let us know how you use your favourite voice assistants in the comments below.
Make sure to check out our articles on robots around us here. Come back to our blog every day to expand your knowledge of voice assistants.