First genderless voice, "Q", created for personal tech assistants

VIRTUE Nordics is the team behind "Q", the first genderless voice assistant. With the launch of "Q", VIRTUE and Copenhagen Pride hope that consumers and major tech companies will recognize gender issues and acknowledge "Q" as a potential solution.

Technology companies conclude users’ preferences of a female voice in certain scenarios, and male voices in others, because they believe it will make people more comfortable adopting and using it. The male voice is used in more authoritative roles, such as banking and insurance apps, and the female voice in more service oriented roles, such as Alexa or Siri.

"Technology should be rooted in new cultural truths, rather than antiquated ones. As the agency born from VICE, we have a responsibility to ensure diverse representation in the mediums shaping culture today," said Ryan Sherman and Emil Asmussen, from VIRTUE Nordics. "Using data and insights from our global VICE network, we identified a unique opportunity to progress a medium of technology becoming more pervasive in our everyday lives." 

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 the research.

The modulated voices were tested on a Europe-wide survey with over 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, around 153 Hz.

Now that "Q"’s genderless voice has been developed, the next step is to build theAI framework within its voice. From there, VIRTUE’s ambition is to see "Q" implemented not only in voice-assisted products, but also as a voice for metrostations, games, theaters, and beyond.

"'Q' represents not the voice of one, but the voice of many who are fighting for a future inclusive of everyone," said Sherman and Asmussen.