Alexa now offering masculine voice in Aotearoa

Alexa now offers male voice to New Zealand users.
Photo credit: supplied

New Zealand users of Amazon's Alexa devices can now choose to hear a masculine voice rather than the default feminine option.

The update comes amid rising concern about feminine voices being far more common than masculine voices in AI personal assistants.

Apple's Siri already offers a range of different voices in Aotearoa, with masculine and feminine options as well as multiple nationalities. However the default voice is feminine, as is the case with Google's assistant and most others.

To change Alexa's voice, users in Aotearoa can just say "Alexa, change your voice" to their device, Amazon said.

They can also say "Alexa, sing a duet" to hear both the masculine and feminine voices in unison.

The voice can also be changed in the Alexa app on iOs or Android by doing the following:

  • Tap on the Devices tab at the bottom
  • Tap on the Echo & Alexa button in the top left
  • Tap on the device you want to change Alexa's voice on
  • Tap the Settings cog wheel button in the upper right
  • Scroll down to the option for Alexa's Voice and tap on it
  • Choose either Original (the feminine voice) or New (the masculine voice).

Alexa's masculine voice was previously rolled out in other countries last year.

A UNESCO report released in 2019 claimed that AI assistants being projected as young women perpetuated gender biases that could be harmful.

"Because the speech of most voice assistants is female, it sends a signal that women are obliging, docile and eager-to-please helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command like 'hey' or 'OK'," the report said.

"It honours commands and responds to queries regardless of their tone or hostility. In many communities, this reinforces commonly held gender biases that women are subservient and tolerant of poor behaviour."

In addition to the UNESCO report, several other articles have been published online regarding the negative impact of the standard femininity of AI personal assistants.