Q the Genderless Voice Could Be Coming to a Device Near You
Unless you’ve chosen to tinker with the voice settings for Siri and Alexa, you probably hear a female voice when you talk to your virtual assistant. But now, thanks to researchers, sound designers, and linguists—who worked with Copenhagen Pride, Virtue, Equal AI, Koalition Interactive, and thirtysoundsgood—there’s a genderless voice option: Q.
According to NPR, “They first recorded dozens of voices of people — those who identify as male, female, transgender or nonbinary.” That turned out to be a bit complicated. So “sound designer Nis Norgaard ended up focusing on one voice, and altering it so that it sounded gender-neutral.”
Norgaard told Wired, "It was really tricky, because your brain can tell if the voice has been pitched up and down. It was difficult to work with these voices without destroying them."
“Q is the First Genderless Voice, created to end gender bias in AI assistants,” according to its website. Some may be wondering why the gender of the voice that gives you directions or answers your questions matters. According to Q’s site, “Technology companies often choose to gender technology believing it will make people more comfortable adopting it. Unfortunately, this reinforces a binary perception of gender, and perpetuates stereotypes that many have fought hard to progress.”
Connecticut Innovations (CI)—a quasi-public venture capital fund—"has completed its initial $500,000 equity investment to the winner of last year's VentureClash pitch competition."