Virtual assistants aren’t a new concept. Siri has been available to iPhone users since 2011, for example, and Amazon’s Alexa hit the market in 2014. What is new—and long overdue—is the fact that companies are now giving users the option to pick a male voice to handle their virtual assistant needs instead of only offering female voices, as Fast Company recently noted.
Siri users who have the iOS 7 update can now change the voice gender option under Siri’s settings, and the voices of Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana can also be changed to male, though Fast Company notes that the process of changing those settings isn’t quite as simple as it is with Siri. Google, meanwhile, has chosen to update its voice assistant by adding a genderless option called “Voice II.”
As to why software companies previously defaulted to female voices for their AI products, Wall Street Journal writer Joanna Stern wrote in February that it’s because market research has shown that both men and women show a “preference for the female voice.” But as we enter an age where there’ll only be more and more AI products at our disposal, she urged companies and consumers to “break from ancient stereotypes that hold us back. Let there be gender equality—even if, for now, all we want is a weather report.”
Read more on Fast Company.