We are all different. We are all equal.
Most people would probably agree with those two ideas. But bringing them into alignment—ensuring that in a diverse society, everyone has the same rights and opportunities—is one of the greatest of all challenges.
In the future, will inequality increase? Or will new ideas and new technologies help us establish a level playing field, a foundation for our common humanity?
This section includes the following objects:
Q Genderless Voice Assistant
Otl Aicher, 1972 Olympics Poster
A Genderless Voice
Q is a genderless virtual voice. It was synthesized by combining recordings of people who identify variously as male, female, transgender, or nonbinary. By mixing multiple voices together, Q’s makers have created a voice “for a future where we are no longer defined by gender, but rather by how we define ourselves.”
Description: A red circle with a spectrum on a screen. At the top is Feminine 220 Hz, At the middle is Neutral 145 Hz, and bottom is Masculine at 80 Hz.
The text reads, “Meet Q, The World’s First Genderless Voice: Q is a digital voice created for voice assistants that allows users to choose a genderless option. An Inclusive Future: Q adds to a global discussion about who is designing gendered technology, and why those choices are made. It shapes a future where the inclusion of ideas, positions, and diverse representation is reflected across all humanlike technologies where voice plays a key role.
Why do voices sound male or female? As humans, we’re used to categorizing voices within the gender binary. A high pitched voice will often be gendered as female, while a lower-pitched voice as male. But right in the middle lies a range where those overlap. A voice’s frequency usually determines if it’s gendered male or female: -A voice sitting between 175-220 Hz is typically gendered female. -A voice sitting between 80-140 Hz is typically gendered male. -The gender neutral voice sits somewhere between 145-175 Hz.
How did we create it?: We recorded the voices of 5 people who identify across the gender spectrum. We then ran their voices through software that digitally altered the frequencies and common speech patterns associated with gender. Finally, we tested different versions of the voice across 4600 people until we landed on one voice that was perceived as gender-neutral by the majority.
Gender Bias: Gender bias is a variety of stereotypical beliefs about individuals or a group of individuals on the basis of their sex. It affects women, men, and those who identify outside of the gender binary through exclusion and misunderstanding.
Why do we need a genderless voice?: No matter what voice assistant you have on your phone, you often find only two options for the gender: male or female. But some people don’t identify as either male or female, and they may want their voice assistant to mirror that identity. That’s why we created Q, the world’s first genderless voice for voice assistants.”
Instructions: Touch the screen to move the orb. Moving it up and down, right and left across the screen will alter the voice across a range of gender-neutral frequencies.
VIRTUE, 2019, Genderless Voice
Credit: Copenhagen Pride, Equal AI, Koalition Interactive, Thirty Sounds Good