May 16, 2021

Apple’s latest Siri voice update is a baby step towards inclusivity

It looks like Apple is finally acknowledging that Siri’s default female voice isn’t a good look. 

According to TechCrunch, the latest public betas for iOS and iPadOS require users to select their preferred voice for Siri.

The update is currently rolling out as part of beta 6, which is the newest version of iOS and iPadOS 14.5. After downloading and installing it, users will be be instructed to choose Siri’s voice. Apple also added two new voices, but they’re not exactly gender neutral — one sounds feminine and the other is more masculine. 

“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 confirmed to TechCrunch 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.”

TechCrunch also notes that both of the new voices are run through Apple’s neural text-to-speech engine. Basically, that means they should sound more natural and lifelike when responding to user queries.

A YouTube video from Sam Kohl over at iUpdate walks through what this new Siri update looks and sounds like. 

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As you can see in the video above, the section labeled “Genders” has been changed to “Voices,” and those voices are no longer listed as “Male” and “Female.” 

It’s a step in the right direction for sure, considering the blatant sexism problem that plagues big tech’s smart assistants. So it’s nice to see Apple is finally making some changes towards solving that ongoing problem. Hopefully, Samsung’s Bixby, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant will all follow suit.

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