At the annual I/O developers conference in May, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that users now have six additional options for their Assistant’s voice, one voice of which is John Legend. Google Assistant has now rolled out their a creative UI that allows users to pick a voice by color. You tap on the color associated with a given voice which Google says they chose at random, and then you listen to a sample of the voice and select from there.
Why It’s Hot: Not only is Google Assistant offering a range of male and female voices, they’re using an intentionally vague selection mechanism (color) as opposed to more traditionally gendered names or even just the labels “male” and “female”. This is a big improvement in equalizing the traditionally VERY gendered area of tech assistant voices, where almost all assistants are given female-sounding voices and names (Siri, Alexa, etc). Google Assistant itself had only a female voice until late 2017, when the option for a male voice was rolled out.
The justification often used for this systemic sexism is that studies show that both men and women choose and trust female voices more. The WSJ recently cited two studies that both found men and women find female voices “welcoming and warm” – the only exception being when the voices are teaching them about computers, in which case male voices are preferred. Female voices are especially desired when giving love and relationship advice.
Using the results of these studies, which simply reflect the ingrained misogyny in our society, to justify having ONLY female voices is lazy at best. So by giving users a range of voices, plus a vague selection system to choose them from, is a great step from Google toward allowing users to choose their voice without as much overt gendered signaling.
Learn More: Engadget