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We asked, you told us: A female voice assistant or Morgan Freeman, please
The issue at play is that the dominant voice assistants are by default, female. Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, Cortana and Bixby all have a female AI voice out of the box. Each of these options also offers a range of voices, including male, and some celebrities, and some offer accented regional voices for British or Australian accents, and so on. (I use an Australian accented Google Assistant voice, and it’s now surprising to hear an Assistant in another voice.)
But the vocal repertoires of these voice assistants took quite a while to grow beyond just a default female. And in that time, there was plenty of arguments each way for the reasons why offering an alternative would be a good idea.
Some data pointed out that both men and women prefer the sound of female voices for being warm and relatable, while others said it was far more complicated than than.
Of course, there have been some legendary AI voices in pop culture over the years – from Star Trek’s female computer voice to the male (and creepy) HAL 9000 voice from 2001: A Space Odyssey. More recently, we’ve heard from Iron Man’s J.A.R.V.I.S in the Marvel Universe, while Her showed us how very “friendly” sounding AI voices such as Samantha can be for lonely people.
So, with all that in our minds, let’s take a look at the voting results of more than 40,000 votes, and then get to your comments:
Would you rather your virtual assistant be male, female, or gender neutral?
It’s a similar set of results across our three polls: a female voice is a comfortable winner, easily taking more than half the vote. Next, at around a quarter of the vote, was the “no preference” vote, and then on less than ten percent each was both the male voice and the non-gender specific voice, which is either a robot or an altered-voice that could easily be either gender.
On to the comments – and the comments sections were full of different requests for either a celebrity like Morgan Freeman or Scarlett Johansson, or certain voice characters from pop culture like Darth Vader, or even a certain YouTuber with a smooth voice! The voice AI companies are onto this – Google is already bringing a sultry smooth option voiced by R&B star John Legend and if that works, we’ll no doubt see a vastly increased range of voices.
Here are some of the common requests in no particular order – take note Google!
- Darth Vader
- Morgan Freeman
- Zack from JerryRigEverything
- Hal 9000.
- Samantha (Scarlett Johansson)
- Homer Simpson
- Mortal Kombat Announcer
That’s it for this week’s poll! We’ll likely run this one again in a few years time and who knows how the voice landscape will have changed by then. We’ll guess that it’s highly likely that you’ll be able to feast on a variety of voices soon – Bixby already supports Korean celebrities, and John Legend isn’t the only celeb voice that will come to Google Assistant. “Hey Google, remind me in two years to check these results!”
Pop your predictions and thoughts below, and see you next week!