Vice Media’s creative agency Virtue has created a “genderless” voice tech platform as a remedy against harmful gender stereotyping in artificial intelligence. Q, which is being launched at the SXSW tech festival in Austin, Texas, today, aims to tackle gender bias and make the use of AI more inclusive.
Virtue accuses tech companies of gendering their voice tech products to fit scenarios in which they believe consumers will feel most comfortable adopting and using it. The agency said a male voice is used in more authoritative roles, such as banking and insurance apps, and a female voice in more service-oriented roles, such as Alexa or Siri.
The next step will be to build an AI framework with the voice that can be used in voice-assisted products, such as Amazon Echo or Google Home, as well as voices used at train stations, video games and movie theatres. Virtue partnered with Anna Jørgensen, a linguist and researcher at the University of Copenhagen, to define the parameters for a gender-neutral voice.
To start, five voices were recorded that do not fit within male or female binaries. Using specific voice modulation software, the voices were moved into the gender-neutral range that was defined through Jørgensen’s research.
The modulated voices were then tested on a Europe-wide survey with more than 4,600 people, asking participants to rate the voice on a scale of one (male) to five (female). Finally, the voice was modulated and tested again until the voice was perceived as gender neutral.
Q is being launched in partnership with Copenhagen Pride and Equal AI, an initiative focused on correcting and preventing gender bias in AI. The creative team from Virtue Nordics, Ryan Sherman and Emil Asmussen, said: “Technology should be rooted in new cultural truths, rather than antiquated ones … Q represents not the voice of one but the voice of many, who are fighting for a future inclusive of everyone.”
Vice Media LLC is a Canadian digital media and broadcasting company. Originating from the Montreal-based Vice magazine co-founded by Suroosh Alvi, Shane Smith, and Gavin McInnes (who left the company in 2008), Vice expanded primarily into youth and young adult–focused digital media, including online content verticals and related web series, the news division Vice News, a film production studio, and a record label among other properties.
In 2007, Vice Media began aggressively expanding its digital video operation, launching new channels, such as Motherboard (tech), Noisey (music), and The Creators Project, an arts/technology site founded in partnership with Intel. Vice Media would later launch sites around electronic music culture (Thump), global news (Vice News), food (Munchies) and sports (Vice Sports). Additionally, Vice Media launched Virtue Worldwide, a creative services agency, to expand their capabilities for work around their platforms.
Virtue is led by Rob Newlan, the ex-Facebook Creative Shop director, who was appointed chief executive for EMEA in June 2017 and oversees its 18 offices across Europe. The agency has worked with brands including Unilever, Nike, Google, Chanel and Timberland.
Source: Campaign India