Apple won’t give Siri a female-sounding voice by default anymore

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

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.

Comments

Whatevs. I don’t think a female or male assistant voice has biased me in any way. The female one sounded more pleasant to me so I kept it as a default. I don’t see women as assistants as a result.

He said, not understanding the concept of bias

I’m pretty clear on it, thanks.

Not really, where there is a binary choice it isn’t a question of bias to prefer one. If there was a choice of 50 and you always choose the female voice then there is a bias.

But his anecdotal views don’t change the issue that "voice assistants" default to female voices pretty much across the board and this perpetuates implicit biases about the roles of women.

"I don’t interpret it that way, personally" isn’t the point.

I mean in the UK (where I live) Siri defaults to a male voice so that rather stunts my view of any such bias. I believe France is the same.

Because men are Butlers in the UK

This is absolutely not true. Biases are often very subtle and hidden. They often affect our choices and behaviors unconsciously. It can take a lot of self introspection, looking for logical fallacies in our exchanges with people, and even therapy to uncover them.

Biases are natural to everyone so we don’t need to feel guilty about them. But uncovering them is a major step toward evolving individually and as a society.

You’re really in a terrible position to judge your own biases, just to be clear

You just confirmed confirmation bias by confirming your bias.

I think i trust a female voice assistant mre than a dudes.

the dudes voice assistants voices sound douchy. Plus i trust women to do a better job than us dudes anytime.

I guess they didn’t specify which types of bias and negative stereotypes it created

So you’re a raging sexist.

Just because you see positive gender traits doesn’t mean you aren’t gender biased or stereotyping based on gender.

Whooshh

I always choose one with an English accent anyways.

And living in the UK the default one is always the British Male voice anyway.

I always set my Siri to be an Australian Male, which is the most natural sounding voice imo.

Australian female is also solid too. It tripped me out when it told me to "have a good one!" when I said I was leaving the first time

I live with 3 Australian females (wife and 2 daughters ) and they trip me out too.

Australian female has been my Siri for a while now. I really like the way she pronounces street names for some reason, really pleasant sounding.

Those 7 people who use Siri are rejoicing

: rolls eyes :

Since there are seven users, that means they are each doing something over 117 million requests per day, or 81,000 per minute.

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