Siri, Alexa and Cortana are all digital assistant apps, whose voices we’ve come to recognize in our smartphones and other devises. But why are all of these services women? Most digital assistants have female voices — is there reasoning behind that? According to a study from Rice University, users found systems with a man’s voice easier to use, but found women’s voices to be more “trustworthy.” “It’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes…” explains Standford University professor Clifford Nass, “It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brains is developed to like female voices.” Women make up approximately 11% of the executive roles in Silicon Valley, meaning that these systems are mostly approved by men. Some say these assistants are developed with an implicit gender bias. Kathleen Richardson, author of Anthropology of Robots and AI states “I think that probably reflects what some men think about women — that they’re not fully human beings.” Since interactive voice response systems (IVR) were first released, more diverse gender options have been added. But women’s voices are the primary ones we associate these systems with. It’ll be interesting to see if the next big digital assistant has a woman’s or man’s voice.
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