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Meet Q, the first gender-neutral digital voice assistant

voice assistant 02
© metamorworks/Shutterstock

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Neither male nor female. Gender barriers are there to be broken and even more so in these times. With this idea, Q was born, the first asexual digital voice assistant that identifies as gender neutral. Created to end gender bias and discrimination in technology, Q was presented at South by Southwest (SXSW), a festival held in Austin, Texas, about the impact of technology on society.

While several countries in the world have begun to recognize a third gender that will be reflected in the identity documents and passports of people identifying as a non-binary gender, some in the technological community also want to move closer to this idea of integration and away from traditional gender roles.

q genderless voice assistant 1
Alexa from Amazon uses a woman's name and voice. / © Genderless Voice

Q's voice is neither female nor male. "The first voice without gender" - so called by its creators - has been developed by the agency VIRTUE, Copenhagen Pride and the organization Equal AI, among others, to differentiate itself from the current digital assistants and to open up a new possibility in the market.

"We aim to get the attention of leading technological companies that work with AI to ensure they are aware that a gender binary normativity excludes many people and to inspire them by showing how easy it would actually be to recognize that more than two genders exist when developing artificial intelligence devices. This is about giving people choices and options," Thomas Rasmussen, head of communication for Copenhagen Pride, said in a statement announcing Q.

q genderless voice assistant 2
In Google Assistant you can choose if you want a male or female voice. / © Genderless Voice

Alexa from Amazon, Siri from Apple, Google Assistant or Cortana from Windows, the latter practically extinct, dominate the current market of digital voice assistants. It is true that in some you can choose the gender and even decide between several types of voices, but most come with the female voice by default. And this is something that many people don't like (that's another story), although the people behind it always talk about the need to look for a familiar voice so that users feel more comfortable. Q could fill this gap for people who do not identify with either of the two stipulated genders.

q genderless voice assistant 3
Siri, Apple's assistant, also has gender. / © Genderless Voice

Will this become more common in technology? At the moment it is only a project and, also at the moment, there is no artificial intelligence behind this neutral voice. Come on, it's talking but it can't understand what you're saying. We will see if it becomes a reality and one day we can choose that our assistant is asexual.

This is what a non-gendered voice assistant sounds like: between 145 and 175 Hz, as they say on the Q website, where you can hear the resulting voice after having had several people who identify as non-binary genders to record their voices. Then a large team of linguists and sound designers did the rest. See for yourself in the following video:

What do you think of Q? Do you think it is necessary to break down gender barriers in digital assistants?

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  • 16
    Deactivated Account Mar 22, 2019 Link to comment

    seriously, these people need real jobs... you know, jobs that actually solve problems and produce goods or services, not pander to a minute portion of a minority within the population. no one was asking for this!

  • Mark G. 28
    Mark G. Mar 14, 2019 Link to comment

    Regardless of the intention of the writer, or the feminist movement in rightly pushing for equality, whether it is right or wrong is secondary to the actual substance of the article. Which is the 'neutral voice' isn't very 'neutral'. It sounds more male to start with then distinctly female. Is it supposed to be a mixture of the two? I'm not sure how a voice can be neutral?
    Sure you can call a certain voice as neutral but is it actually substantial different to either male or female?

    Peace 🖖🏼

  • 24
    Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

    O boy, some more socialist construct propaganda and sexist bigotry from a man hating feminist. Your so-called progressive views and believes are nothing new it's actually so old it was done in the Roman times and look what happend to the mighty Roman empire. Why is she allowed to write on AndroidPit? Why allow such blatant sexism here. Before she was here we all got along just fine what I've seen and I enjoyed the female journalists writing about tech but this feminist I must say is always writing rubbish about hating men and misandry. Would like to know who approved this crap she writes?

    • Suzana Dalul 14
      Suzana Dalul Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

      This is the epitome of an overreaction. Did you even read the article or did you just see gender neutral in the headline and proceed to rant in the comments? There's nothing misandrist in Silvia's article. Or any other article on this website for that matter. We don't tolerate any kind of sexism. It's a simple news story discussing the introduction of a gender neutral assistant. I also find it quite funny that you are OK with female tech journalists as long as they cover stories that align with your pre-existing views or as long as we don't cover something that might make you slightly uncomfortable. If it does, then it must be some socialist propaganda that will lead to the fall of civilization. Honestly, I don't know if I've ever seen a more overblown reaction to such an innocuous article. And people say liberals are triggered. Keep it civil in the comments from now on, I'd appreciate it.

      Deactivated AccountSilvia SantosGrossDad

      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        I will quote from her intro: "Created to end gender bias and discrimination in technology..." Do you think I don't understand what she implies with that statement. Clearly that she implies there's discrimination against woman by men in the tech industry. And if I'm not mistaken there was a previous article that she also made such sexist statements here on Androidpit about men which I made a comment on will check and if so write what she wrote. Seems I hit a nerve Suzana. Seems birds of a feather flock together here on Androidpit.

      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        You see I was right: "Enough! Tech shouldn't be a boys club" by this same feminist writer. "n the year of #MeToo and with the resurgence of feminism as a combative movement, women's empowerment isn't just a trending topic. It feels like it's a reality. And it's about time! But even if we're closer to gender equality, but there's still a long way to go. And what does this have to do with the world of tech? A recent survey shows that more than 60 percent of women working in the technology sector feel like they aren't taken seriously. That's a worrying figure..."

      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        I bet you if I write a similar article stating Tech shouldn't be a girls club everyone including you will flag my post and either remove it or ban me. But because she is a woman it's fine and we should just accept this? I'm tired of this constant attacks on men and we must just keep quite. Nobody is stopping woman from entering tech, why should we read this crap and sexism towards us men.

      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        Thanks awaiting my apology from you Suzana.

      • Suzana Dalul 14
        Suzana Dalul Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        If you wrote an article saying that a female dominated field should welcome more men, it wouldn't be sexist, no. You are also jumping to conclusions and you seriously need to take a chill pill. You won't be receiving any apology, but I'll warn you once again to watch your behavior.


      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        Thus braiwashing boys like in sweden to wear dresses is acceptable and progressive behaviour and "forward looking" as storm phrased it infra?

      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        @ Suzana or what you will ban me? Then do it... Like I stated don't want to be here and spoil your fun on androidpit discussing your feminist utopian regressive hellhole of the future.

      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        Why don't you take a chill pill? And neither will I apologize for my comments and/or views. You can give me warning I don't care. Won't stop me from writing what I think. Threatening to ban me won't stop me either will just prove the gynocentric place androidpit has become with feminists writing rubbish and hailing for masculinity to be abolished. It's praised it seems. What a joke this place has become.

      • Bastian Siewers 66
        Bastian Siewers Mar 14, 2019 Link to comment

        And that's where it's enough Jacques. No, this article is not sexist. For many reason. I really don't need to state them if you don't see them in the first place, as you obviously want to ignore the facts. The way you behave here in the comments and the way you talk about an editor of AndroidPIT says a lot, and we do not allow this kind of behaviour.
        So it's up to you. If you don't want to be part of this community anymore, so be it. If you do, think about your behaviour here again.

        Deactivated AccountSilvia Santos

      • Silvia Santos 13
        Silvia Santos Mar 14, 2019 Link to comment

        Hi Jaques, nice to meet you too. Even though I might be "burning for eternity in a lake of fire" I want to have the opportunity to remind you what feminism means.

        /ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m/ noun
        the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

        That said I do not feel offended by you calling me a feminist. Thanks for reading my articles and for taking your time to comment on them. Next time though you should, at the very least, be polite.

        Deactivated AccountDavid McCourt

    • 49
      storm Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

      That wasn't an attack on the article content but sure displayed your views. i found the article interesting and forward looking.

      I'm embarrassed for every upvote you ever gave me. If I could delete them from my reputation, I would.

      Suzana DalulSilvia SantosBastian SiewersNicholas MontegriffoGrossDadDeactivated Account

      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        Don't worry I might not be here for much longer. Then you can enjoy your "forward thinking" feminist articles storm.

      • 24
        Deactivated Account Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

        Gave you some more likes hope you enjoy them.

    • 16
      Deactivated Account Mar 22, 2019 Link to comment

      lol well this definitely isn't feminism, it's worse... gender dysphoria gone mainstream.

      it is a really dumb article, though.

  • 17
    Gavin Runeblade Mar 13, 2019 Link to comment

    My understanding is that digitized and semi-robotic voices are easier to understand even if some people complain about them and think they are not. The data shows on tests people comprehend and retain information from a digitized voice better than from a natural one, even if they dislike the voice. Similarly, in tests done around the world people both trust and enjoy the sound of a female voice more than a male voice. Hence the domination of female voice assistants and female call tree voices and all the female digital voices trying to run the scam about your overdue car payments.

    But I'm not aware of any tests on genderless voices in a three-way contest. I'd be very curious to know if it works like the digitization vs natural to help or hinder comprehension and retention.

    Silvia SantosSuzana Dalul

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