Siri's voice has been a matter of contention among some advocates who argue that voice assistants have a gender-bias problem. Apple must've heard them loud and clear because the company's beloved virtual assistant will no longer have a default female-sounding voice.
Apple is adding two brand-spankin' new voices to Siri's repertoire in the latest beta version of iOS. What does this mean? Well, when users set up Siri, they can choose the voice that best suits their tastes (via TechCrunch).
Siri will no longer have a female-sounding voice by default on iOS 14.5
Thanks to the recent release of iOS 14.5 beta 6, Siri will no longer have a female-sounding voice by default and users will have the option to choose between two additional voices that best aligns with their preferences.
Over the years, advocates have been calling out voice assistants for defaulting to a female voice. According to a 2016 Maxus Survey, of all the gendered bots analyzed in the investigation, 56% were female, but 100% of law bots — and a majority of finance bots — were male.
According to a statement by Apple, the Cupertino-based tech giant is eliminating Siri's default female voice to mirror the company's mission for greater diversity and inclusion.
“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,” 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 new set of voices are sourced from Apple's pool of talent recordings. They are then run through the company's neural text-to-speech engine, which makes the voices sound more organic and conversational — even when phrases are being generated on the fly.
TechCrunch's Editor-in-Chief Matthew Panzarino said he's heard the new voices. According to him, they sound "pretty fantastic." He gushed about the voices' natural inflections and smooth transitions. Panzarino promised to publish some samples of the voices after the beta drops.
Siri's two new voices are available to English-speaking users worldwide. Apple's popular voice assistant manages 25 billion requests and supports 21 languages in 36 countries.