Project Q is a gender-neutral voice assistant

Controlling your home with a they/them

This voice assistant is gender neutral
The Ambient is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

If you feel uneasy that your chosen voice assistant is a woman (or a man) - be it Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant - you might be interested in Project Q. It's a gender neutral voice assistant that's been developed by a group of researchers at Copenhagen Pride.

The aim is to create a voice technology that doesn't reinforce stereotypes about who rules the roost in our homes. By playing with the frequency of recorded voice, and tweaking it to sit between 145- and 175-hertz, researchers were able to create a voice that 4,600 people agreed to be gender neutral. You can listen to the outcome below.

The voices of the digital assistants we interact with are designed thanks to hundreds of focus groups, based on the type of voice we feel most comfortable talking to. But all too often that's because of engrained stereotypes, which in turn are simply reinforced.

“Companies turn to research that tells them people expect a female voice,” said Julie Carpenter, at Project Q. “Sometimes we go back to these stereotypes and what happens is we’re reinforcing them. We’re not changing them," she continued.

“Q adds to a global discussion about who is designing gendered technology, why those choices are made, and how people feed into expectations about things like trustworthiness, intelligence, and reliability of a technology based on cultural biases rooted in their belief system about groups of people.”

At The Ambient, we’re careful never to engender voice assistants when writing about them – but that’s not how users refer to their chosen technology. How do you feel about the Q voice? And does talking to a gendered assistant weird you out? Let us know in the comments below.


TAGGED    speakers    smart home

Related stories

speakers How to reset or reboot your Sonos speakers
smart home UK smart meters explained: How they work and whether you should get one
smart home The best smart alarm clocks: Voice command devices with Alexa, Google Assistant and more
smart home Getting started with the best smart blinds: Top brands and options for your shades
smart home How to build your own smart home hub with a Raspberry Pi
smart home Apple HomePod 2 wish list: What we want to see in the next smart speaker