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Q Arrives, a Virtual Assistant without Gender

The panorama of smart speakers and virtual assistants is dominated by female voices. Siri, Alexa, Cortana and the Google assistant come predetermined with the voice of a woman.

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The panorama of smart speakers and virtual assistants is dominated by female voices. Siri, Alexa, Cortana and the Google assistant come predetermined with the voice of a woman. Although new options have recently been added that include male and other voices, as in the case of Amazon, the selection is still defined by a binary gender perspective.

“One of the main objectives with the creation of Q is to contribute to the global conversation about gender and the inclusion of individuals who do not identify with the traditional genders.”

This is the problem that seeks to address Q, the first voice without gender designed for virtual assistants. The initiative emerged as a collaboration between Virtue Nordic, Vice creative agency, together with researchers from Copenhagen Pride, the Equal EI association, as well as international studios and producers. Q made his first appearance earlier this month at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas.

For its creation, the team recorded 24 people who identified themselves as a binary, transgender or gender genre. They tried to compare the voices and find a common and intermediate point, however, after seeing the difficulty of this task, they chose a single voice that, according to their research, corresponded to a gender neutral rank. This voice was modified until obtaining four pilot voices in different auditory frequencies.

The test voices were submitted to the scrutiny of 4,500 respondents, who rated them in a spectrum from 1 to 5, with 1 being the male voice spectrum and 5 being the female voice spectrum. The winner was perceived by 50% of respondents as a neutral voice, while 26% considered it closer to the masculine spectrum and 24% to the female spectrum.

This is how Q emerges

According to statements by Julie Carpenter, expert in human behavior, emerging technologies and collaborator of the project, one of the main objectives with the creation of Q is to contribute to the global conversation about gender and the inclusion of individuals who do not identify with gender. traditional

The overcrowding of sales of digital speakers and smart devices represents an advance in this experimental market, but at the same time requires greater inclusion. In fact, in the last quarter of last year Strategy Analytics registered a record 22.7 million units sold. Record that was closely related to the adaptation of the voices of the audience to Spanish.

In this sense, Q poses an alternative to the female scenario of digital assistants. In fact, responsible for the creative team have told Quartz that they are currently in dialogue with multiple companies, including some of the great technology companies. However, this genderless voice is just a pilot test that has not yet been articulated as Artificial Intelligence so that it can be adopted as a virtual assistant.

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