Thursday, November 03, 2011

Ever Wonder Why So Many Computer Voices Are Female?

The new iPhone’s voice-activated feature called Siri is designed to answer questions in a part-human, part-robot voice that CNN reporter Brandon Griggs describes as “deep, briskly efficient and distinctly female. (At least in the U.S. and four other countries. In France and the UK, Siri is male.)” Interestingly, users refer to the Siri app as “she,” not “it.”

Why are so many computer voices female?

One reason is biology. Scientific studies have shown that people generally find women's voices more pleasing than men's.

Another reason is history. According to some sources, the use of female voices in navigation devices dates back to World War II, when women's voices were employed in airplane cockpits because they stood out among the male pilots.

The third reason is “typecasting.” Telephone operators have accustomed people to accepting help from a disembodied female voice.

Says CNN’s Griggs, “Voices of authority or menace tend to be male: the homicidal HAL 9000 computer in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ the computer program in ‘WarGames,’ or Auto, the spaceship's autopilot function in ‘Wall-E.’ More subservient talking machines, such as the onboard computer from the ‘Star Trek’ TV series, skew female.”

Who knew?

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