Technology 2 min read

Meet the Genderless AI Challenging Sexism in Tech

How many female-voiced virtual assistants can you think of off the top of your head? Probably at least a handful, right? When posed with the question of why so many assistants are coded as female, a group of researchers sought to challenge gender stereotypes with their genderless AI assistant Q.

Meet Q, the genderless AI assistant that wants to challenge our ideas of gender in tech. ¦ Shutterstock

Meet Q, the genderless AI assistant that wants to challenge our ideas of gender in tech. ¦ Shutterstock

Amid ever-evolving concepts of gender, sexuality, and identity, artificial intelligence finds itself among this debate, as well. Of course, since AI is not truly sentient yet, it relies on its programmers. As such, rule sets and even machine learning algorithms can remain biased or prejudiced.

There are even AI that researchers claim can determine a person’s sexual orientation.

However, as we have covered, machine learning relies on data inputs. It stands to reason, then, that AI often develops biases. We’ve seen this in action rather laughably, if unfortunately, with bots such as Microsoft’s Tay.

But the gender-related issue does not involve AI becoming sexist this time. Instead, it involves asking the question, why do so many virtual assistants feature default female voices?

Think about it: Cortana, Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa, etc. Almost every major and popular assistant has some kind of traditionally “female” aspect to them — especially their voices.

Q, the genderless AI voice assistant, seeks to avoid gender stereotypes other assistants may play into.

A Goal of Inclusivity Starting With Genderless AI Assistants

In the video above, Q themselves, explains what they are, why they exist, and how they came to be. In order to achieve a more genderless sound, the group of researchers first turned to those on the nonbinary spectrum for their voices. Then, it all came down to the science of sound.

“I’m created for a future where we are no longer defined by gender, but rather how we define ourselves. My voice was recorded by people who neither identify as male nor female and then altered to sound gender neutral.”

The creators include sound designers, linguists, and technologists. They tapped two dozen people to create the initial voice. Then, they conducted a survey across 4,600 people, asking them to rate the composite voice on a scale from 1(male) to 5 (female).

Using those results, the researchers divined the ideal frequency range for their needs. In order to create their genderless AI, the voice needed to fall between 145 – 175 Hz.

With Q, the group hopes to challenge gender stereotypes and increase inclusivity in tech industries.

Read More: How Machine Learning Trains AI to be Sexist (by Accident)

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Juliet Childers

Content Specialist and EDGY OG with a (mostly) healthy obsession with video games. She covers Industry buzz including VR/AR, content marketing, cybersecurity, AI, and many more.

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