Manzana will remove the female voice as the default for your Siri assistant, according to TechCrunch. The change will be made from the sixth beta version of iOS 14.5. Once the devices are updated, Apple will ask users to choose their preferred Siri voice during the assistant setup. The new voices are available to English-speaking users around the world, who will also be able to select a personal voice preference in 16 languages.
The new voices available they will not have specific names, but correspond to numbers. As stated TechCruch, the changes are very natural, adding more neutral tones, softer and cleaner transitions between voices. Here are some samples of the voices in question:
Here’s a recording of Siri’s new lineup of American voices in iOS 14.5. Voices 1 and 4 are the existing ones, voices 2 and 3 are the new ones. pic.twitter.com/6emei4B3Z9
– John Gruber (@gruber) April 1, 2021
These two new voices are most likely just the first expansion into Siri’s voice selections; more diversity in regional voice, tone and dialect is a positive development of how smart devices feel without gender associations.
Sexism in voice assistants
Some time ago, the UN published an essay called I´ll blush if i could (I would blush if I could) in which it stated that having Siri, Google Assistant, and other smart female assistants by default was sexist. The essay said that “Apple’s decision to make Siri’s voice female by default in the United States and many other countries reinforces gender bias.” The problem with this, the report says, is that ‘reflects and reinforces’ the idea that the assistants, who act as a support in daily tasks, are women.
In the wake of this lengthy statement, we have started to see some movement from Amazon, Google and Apple to correct situations where attendees have revealed biases in their responses to inquiries that use negative or abusive language. These kinds of elections are important, especially on a scale of hundreds of millions of people.
Why has Apple made this change?
In some countries and languages, Siri already has a male voice by default; however, this change makes the choice up to first-time users.
“This is a continuation of Apple’s longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.” said Apple to The Verge it’s a statement.
The news is the latest example of big tech companies try to remove any gender associations from their digital voice assistants. Various studies have found that when attendees use a female-sounding voice by default, it can reinforce prejudices and negative stereotypes. Apple’s last step is one of the most important so far, why?
Taking into account that Siri accepts more than 25 billion requests per month on 500 million devices, the influence of its activity can be decisive in users, so small changes like this make society advance a lot in thought unconsciously.
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