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Mon Feb 12, 2018, 02:57 PM

Why is Alexa female? [View all]

Last edited Mon Feb 12, 2018, 03:33 PM - Edit history (3)

I don't have one, but a visiting family member did. And everyone was calling this round box "she" and "her."

Why did the company not make a male robot? Why did it have to give it any gender at all?

This isn't France. We don't assign genders to objects in English. So why make the exception here? And if we were going to, why don't they sell both Alex's and Alexa's? Or give it a gender neutral name, like Taylor or Morgan?

Someone pointed out that this started with Siri. To western ears, the name Siri doesn't sound female or male, but the designers chose to give it a female voice. Why not a male version?

ON UPDATE: I just found this piece from October:

https://www.fastcompany.com/40476927/youve-got-male-google-finally-realizes-that-voice-assistants-dont-have-to-be-female

You’ve got male: Google finally realizes that voice assistants don’t have to be female

In a world full of aggravations, one of the more subtly frustrating grievances is that every single smart device has a female digital assistant. Apple has Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana is voiced by a woman, and Alexa skews female, too. Google’s Assistant defaults to a woman’s voice as well, but they have just (finally) added a male version. According to Android Police, Google has gifted the robotic voice with the genderless title of “Voice II,” because gender is a construct and anyone or any gender or no gender can order your groceries from Walmart. To switch to the new voice, select settings on your phone Assistant or the Google Home app and then find your preferred voice option in preferences, under “assistant voice.”

Apple added the ability for Siri to use a male voice with the iOS 7 update. To activate, simply go to General Settings, find Siri’s settings, and then tap the option for Voice Gender. Or ask Siri if it’s a man or a woman and it will give you the option to change. Cortana can change, too, if you dig into the settings, and Alexa is available as a male, but currently only for English speakers.

As for why the assistants all default to female, according to two studies recently cited by The Wall Street Journal, men and women prefer a female voice assistant because they believe it’s more welcoming and understanding. It probably helps that they only have to pay them 80 cents for every dollar they pay the male one.

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