If you’ve ever felt annoyed by the obviously gendered voices in technology, Q aims to put an end to this gender bias. In the press release for Q, “the world’s first genderless voice”, the creators state how gendered voices in technology from the likes of Alexa, Siri and the Spike Jonze film Her, actually “perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes” by excluding non-binary individuals.
Virtue, the creative agency born from Vice along with Copenhagen Pride announced Q’s creation in the hopes of “fostering more inclusivity in voice technology” and further progressing an all-inclusive perception of gender. “As voice assisted platforms become more pervasive in our lives” asserts the press release, “technology companies are continuing to gender their voice tech to fit scenarios in which they believe consumers will feel most comfortable adopting and using it.”
Q’s voice is made up of five voices that “do not fit within male of female binaries”. Making use of the latest academic research from the University of Copenhagen, Virtue’s team utilises specific voice modulation software to create and define a gender-neutral range. The modified voices were tested on a Europe-wide survey which asked over 4,600 participants to rate the voice on a scale of 1 (male) to 5 (female) in order to accurately create and define a voice that is perceived as gender neutral.
Controversially, a male voice is often used to express “more authoritative roles such as banking and insurance apps” while a female voice is subscribed to “more derived oriented roles, such as Alexa or Siri.” Q, on the other hand, hopes to shed light on this prescriptive issue and present consumers and major tech companies with a potential solution.
While Q is still in development, Virtue and Copenhagen Pride will work towards building the AI framework so the voice becomes responsive. And from there, “Virtue’s ambition is to see Q implemented not only in voice-assisted products, but also as a voice for metro stations, games, theatres, and beyond.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.