Apple stop using ‘female’ or ‘male’ voice by default and allow users to choose how voice assistant speaks

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 01 April 2021 10:52 BST
(Getty Images)

Apple will stop Siri defaulting to a “male” or “female” voice, and instead give users the choice of how their voice assistant sounds.Until now, iPhones and other devices with Siri have defaulted to a certain voice.

That varies depending on countries – in the US it is a higher-pitched, “female” voice, while in the UK it is a lower, “male” one – and people have been given the option to change it through the settings, but the choice has always been made on behalf of users.

With a new update, users will be prompted to pick between the various different pitches and accents, and the new update includes new options to choose from.

Apple said the decision had been made with a view to more diversity and being more inclusive, presumably to reflect criticism that defaulting to a “female” voice carried with it problematic assumptions about gender.

“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,” the company said 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.” 

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Siri appears to be the first voice assistant to stop defaulting to a certain gendered voice. Alexa can only speak in a female voice, and though Google Assistant includes a range of different voices, a female one is still chosen for users.

The lack of default as well as a new choice of voices is rolling out now with the latest beta version of iOS. As such, it is likely to come to the public version of the operating system in an upcoming update.

The new voice options use text to speech technology that use artificial intelligence to allow the voices to sound more natural.

The new update also adds those same voice processing features to the Irish, Russian and Italian voices, bringing the total number to 38.

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