Apple adds two new Siri voices to iOS, no longer defaults to female-sounding option

Apple’s iOS will no longer default to a female voice for Siri, instead allowing users to pick between male and female when setting up their device. The change was spotted in the sixth beta of iOS 14.5, which also features two new voices for Apple’s voice assistant.

First reported by TechCrunch, Apple announced the changes are part of the company’s commitment to diversity.

“We’re excited to introduce two new Siri voices for English speakers and the option for Siri users to select the voice they want when they set up their device,” a statement reads from Apple.

Previously, Siri would default to a female voice, which users could then change in the settings. You can also change the accent of Siri, and going forward, Apple is adding two new voices. TechCrunch said the new voices “use source talent recordings that are then run through Apple’s Neural text to speech engine, making the voices flow more organically through phrases that are actually being generated on the fly.”

TechCrunch notes that the topic of bias in voice assistants has been explored more carefully over the past few years. A study by the United Nations concluded that defaulting to a female voice reinforces gender bias and negative stereotypes.

“This is a continuation of Apple’s long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and products and services that are designed to better reflect the diversity of the world we live in,” Apple said.

The new voices are available to English speaking users around the world, and can be heard over at 9to5Mac. In addition to the introduction of new voices, Apple has also made improvements to Siri in Ireland, Russia, and Italy, upgrading them to neural text to speech. That brings the total voices using the new tech to 38.

The release of iOS 14.5 is hotly anticipated because it will introduce a new way for iOS users to unlock their device — so long as they have an Apple Watch. The release will also introduce Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature, plus the new voices for Siri.

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

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