Apple will remove the female voice as the default for its Siri assistant, according to TechCrunch. The change is effective as of today’s release of the sixth iOS 14.5 beta. Once this latest update is publicly released to all customers, iPhone and iPad users will be prompted to choose their preferred Siri voice during device setup. Previously, Siri defaulted to a female voice, and users could pick between other voices in settings after the fact.
Alongside this change, Apple is also introducing two completely new voices for Siri that, according to TechCrunch, “use source talent recordings that are then run through Apple’s Neural text to speech engine, making the voices flow more organically through phrases that are actually being generated on the fly.” Those new voices are available to English speakers globally.
The news is the latest example of big tech companies trying to remove any gender associations from their digital voice assistants. Studies have found that when assistants use a female-sounding voice by default, it can reinforce bias and negative stereotypes. Some embarrassing mistakes have been made along the way as these technologies develop, but Apple’s latest step is one of the most significant yet.
“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,” Apple told The Verge in a statement. “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.” Siri takes on over 25 billion requests monthly across 500 million devices, according to TechCrunch.