Apple to make users pick between male and female Siri
Business news

Apple will ask iPhone users to pick between male and female versions of its digital assistant Siri, the first of the major tech companies to automatically make users choose. The company said that setting up the assistant will involve choosing between the genders after an upcoming software release. Tech companies have come under pressure over how they characterise voice-activated personalities such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Siri, which are designed to respond to commands such as setting timers, looking up information and controlling smart home devices. In 2019, a United Nations report said that the “servility expressed by so many other digital assistants projected as young women” helped enforce gender stereotypes and reflected largely-male engineering teams at technology companies. Siri has been a male voice by default in the UK since the assistant was launched in 2011, but defaults to a female voice in some other countries. Amazon’s Alexa does not offer a male voice, and the company has referred to the assistant as “she”, saying users preferred female voices in testing. Apple said: “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.” Siri’s responses have been fine-tuned in recent years. Where it once responded to sexist expletives by saying “I’d blush if I could”, it now says “I won’t respond to that.”


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