Siri gets less sexist, no longer female by default
Did you ever wonder why the role of virtual assistant was kind of genderized when Apple’s Siri always spoke with a female voice by default? Wonder no more, as with an upcoming Siri release Apple is going to stop defaulting to this and make the voice a component you choose when setting Siri up on first run.
It seems like a good idea
Apple also says it is introducing two new voices to its assistant, while these changes also extend to HomePod.
Apple’s statement on the matter, provided to TechCrunch, puts a positive spin on this small attempt.
“We’re excited to introduce two new Siri voices for English speakers and the option for Siri users to select the voice they want when they set up their device,” a statement from Apple reads. “This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in.”
The critical idea here, of course, is the normalization of the notion that a voice assistant should be seen to some extent as a subservient woman. Diversity means changing perception around such assumed roles.
Machine voice intelligence
The new voices use recordings of human speakers which are put through Apple’s neural text to speech engine to create natural sounding voices that sound genuine even when they are inventing phrases while talking.
While this is only available in English at this time, the upcoming iOS beta also improves Siri voices in Ireland, Russia and Italy, upgrading them to the same form of neural speech. This implies movement in the same direction one day.
Siri handles 25 billion requests each month
Apple also took a moment to reveal an interesting fact, telling us Siri now handles 25 billion requests per month on over 500 million devices and supports 21 languages in 36 countries.
Futuresource claims Apple’s Siri occupies 25% of the global voice assistant market. It also refers to the technology Apple is using to drive Siri’s voices, saying:
“Platform vendors are moving swiftly to utilise neural network accelerators (NNAs) to place many elements of voice engines at the edge, on devices themselves, to reduce latency and increase privacy.”
Of course, if thinking about the subconscious messaging of how and why a voice is assigned to your intelligent assistant is too much for you, you can always ask Siri to transact tasks for you silently: On an iPad, just tap Command-Space, or on iPhone just swipe down from the middle of the Home screen and type your query in the search field.