A New Genderless Voice Designed For Smart Speakers And Digital Assistants Most digital personal assistants such as Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa have the option to sound either male or female. The team behind Q aims to break through gender binary.

Meet Q, The Gender-Neutral Voice Assistant

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When most people talk to technology, whether it's Alexa or Siri or Google Assistant, the voice that talks back sounds female. Some do choose a male voice. And now researchers have been developing a gender-neutral option called Q. NPR's Dalia Mortada reports.


Q: Hi. I'm Q, the world's first genderless voice assistant.

MORTADA: The voice of Q was developed using dozens of voices.

Q: My voice was recorded by people who neither identify as male nor female and then altered to sound gender-neutral, putting my voice between 145 and 175 Hertz.

MORTADA: That's the range audio researchers identified for the best gender-neutral effect. Julie Carpenter is an expert in human behavior and emerging technologies. And she was one of the researchers behind Project Q.

JULIE CARPENTER: One of our big goals with Q was to contribute to a global conversation about gender and about gender in technology and ethics and how to be inclusive with people that identify in all sorts of different ways.

MORTADA: She points out that people often expect to hear a particular kind of voice in a given situation.

CARPENTER: There is a history of research that shows often that people might prefer to hear a female-sounding voice in some situations, particularly when the tasks associated with that voice are assistive. It really reinforces gender stereotypes.

MORTADA: Q would give companies a chance to break through that stereotype if they choose. The team behind Project Q includes Carpenter, the organizers of Copenhagen Pride Week, technology leaders in an initiative called Equal AI, along with linguist sound designers and others. They settled on this version of Q after playing it for transgender people in Denmark, England and Venezuela. You won't hear Q on your phone or home assistant tomorrow, but the developers hope that big companies will pick it up as a more inclusive voice option. Dalia Mortada, NPR News.

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