black camera lens on gray surfaceVirtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are now thriving-integrated into our lives and continue to develop with Artificial Intelligence (AI) day by day. However, as you know, these assistants mostly come with a male or female voice option.

The developers also revealed “Q,” the first virtual assistant to work with a gender-neutral voice. The developers used the audio range of 145 Hz to 175 Hz, which are described as “neutral” frequencies so that this virtual assistant has a genderless voice, not a male or female voice.

As awareness of gender stereotypes rises, we encounter campaigns and solutions that touch on this problem in every aspect of life, including media, advertisements, games, and toys. For example, advertising agency Virtue Nordic collaborated with Copenhagen Pride. It drew attention to the technology dimension of the business by creating a digital voice called Q for those who want to give their voice assistants a gender-neutral voice.

California State Polytechnic University researcher Julie Carpenter, who advises Virtue Nordic and Copenhagen Pride’s project, draws attention to users’ voice gender preferences change according to their intended use. According to Carpenter, some users prefer a female voice in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) ​​assistant, with the prejudice that it is more supportive or willing to help. Others like the male voice, for which they take a more expert and credible role. These preferences reflect the sexist stereotypes in minds.

According to Julie Carpenter, Q aims to make people question who is designing gender in technology. On what basis these elections were made; It discusses how a technology based on cultural biases will meet expectations about intelligence and reliability. According to Carpenter, Q is an essential step in true innovation; according to Carpenter, Q encourages people to look critically at these cultural biases and belief systems.

Q’s developers moved the recordings to a gender-neutral range using sound modulation software.

The audio samples were tested by listening to more than 4,600 people:

  1. Participants were asked to determine whether the voice they would hear was male or female.
  2. Participants were asked to rate the sound they listened to on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 represented the male voice, while 5 represented the female voice.
  3. The researchers continued to digitally edit the votes based on the participants’ responses until they could create an utter gender-neutral agent. 

black and silver portable speakerThe researchers, who carried out the necessary studies on the pitch, filters, and tones, revealed neutral sounds between 145 and 175 hertz. In addition, higher–frequency voices were perceived as female voices, while lower–frequency ones were perceived as male. With Q, the team hopes to create a framework for Artificial Intelligence (AI) to use gender-neutral voices in digital assistant technologies.

The biggest reason for the Q sound to be revealed is to prevent technology from being gendered. Most virtual assistants have a female voice, which means that women have a helping, organizing, and supporting role in society.

Companies like Google and Apple are also adding a male voice option for their virtual assistants. But the researchers argue that virtual assistants should have a gender-neutral voice option. Q voice is the most important study on the gender neutrality of virtual assistants.

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