Technology promises a future that isn’t tied down by the limitations of flesh. Communication travels further and faster than legs can run, and data beamed into space will live longer than any of its creators. Devices that respond to our voices make hands less necessary. But the digital assistants many of us rely on inadvertently perpetuate the old restrictions of the human form. If Siri has no body, why does she sound like a woman? When there are real people who have moved beyond categories of gender, why shouldn’t AI?
That female voices are the default for most AI assistants and male voices for banking or insurance apps should be disconcerting, too. So Copenhagen Pride and Virtue created Q, a genderless voice profile that companies will be able to use for any voice-activated product.
Virtue’s Nordics team recorded five people whose voices don’t fall within the typical parameters for male or female. Then using modulation software, they shifted the blended voice into a neutral frequency range, about 145 Hz, between a “masculine” 80 Hz and a “feminine” 220 Hz. The result is Q, a genderless amalgam that avoids preconceived stereotypes about men or women.
Now that the voice exists, Virtue will need to build an AI framework for use with voice-activated products and other implementations like video games and announcements in train station or movie theaters.