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Voice on Voice #155 
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Creating a More Inclusive Future for Voice

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Historically, the voice assistants of Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have been female by default — spurring conversation on the gender biases and stereotypes that these voices perpetuate. Voice assistants were created to perform tasks for us, and by making them all female, it subtly reinforces antiquated social constructs. Tech companies are actively trying to combat this by introducing new voices or changing the default voice for their assistants. For example, Apple removed the default female voice for Siri. Last year, Accenture Labs and CereProc partnered to create Sam, the first non-binary voice assistant. And last week, the Smithsonian’s new exhibit uses Q, a genderless voice. From gender to speech impairments, companies are investing in making their voice assistants more inclusive.

The Voice of the Future

The Smithsonian’s FUTURES exhibit — which provides a glimpse of possibilities for the future using immersive installations — features Q, “the first genderless voice,” in an interactive display. Q was originally introduced in 2019 and was created by a team of linguists and creatives who recorded the voices of nonbinary individuals. The end result is a voice that is gender-ambiguous. As discourse highlights the negative stereotypes and gender biases that are reinforced with female voice assistants, many are exploring how they can create more inclusive voice experiences. 
More on WIRED

Hey, Disney

Disney is officially bringing its “Hey, Disney” voice assistant to the Disneyland Resort in 2022. The custom assistant, which is a part of Amazon’s Custom Assistant program, was initially introduced in October at Amazon’s annual product launch event. “Hey, Disney,” will have its own custom voice and will also be able to share jokes, trivia, Disney character greetings and content, and more. The assistant debut will also be accompanied by the introduction of Disney’s MagicBand+ wearable for hands-free convenience. These developments are indicative of the company’s aspirations to build tech-driven, immersive experiences for guests.
More on PR Newswire

I’m Feeling Lucky

Amazon Fire TV owners can now ask Alexa to immediately play a show on Netflix. By saying “Play Something on Netflix,” Netflix’s algorithm provides a personalized recommendation to the viewer based on content they’ve previously watched. Back in September, Amazon launched its new Fire TVs that are controllable via Alexa without the need for a voice-controlled remote. While Alexa can already be used to browse content on Prime Video, this Netflix partnership opens the door for more third-party integrations, making Alexa more valuable to customers who are expanding their smart home ecosystems.
Voicebot.ai

By the Numbers

$250M

was raised by AI transcription company Verbit for its Series E round. (data via TechCrunch)
20.5%
of US internet users own a smart home device. (data via eMarketer)

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