Voice assistants are increasingly entering our lives. Many still have not begun to actively use them, but to deny them in some way a victorious march is, at least, illogical. The massive appearance of voice assistants began back in the days of iPhone 4S and Siri that appeared in it. Since then, to be honest, she hasn't grown much wiser, which is strange. In addition to her, there is also Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, Alice, Portal and even the recently appeared Maroussia from Mail.ru Group. All of them are united by one goal – to enable users to feel the presence of a virtual assistant who will fulfill any (almost) request. The question is, why do they speak in female voices and who voices them?
There are more and more voice assistants, but how do they work?
How the voice assistant works
First of all, it is worth understanding how voice assistants generally begin to speak. Despite all the seeming realism of their voice, and sometimes even intonation, there is a computer behind each phrase, and not a real person. It is he who synthesizes letters and words, collecting them into a single sentence. Although people also apply their speech apparatus to this.
Naturally, it is not possible to transfer the entire base and all the developments in text recognition and speech synthesis to a smartphone. It is for this reason that assistants only work when connected to the Network. In other cases, they just say that they have problems with the connection. This is almost the only phrase that they have offline.
As a result, your request is sent to the server to determine what you said, the data is processed and the response arrives back. The assistant, as it were, asks the server: “What did he say?”. All this happens in seconds or even fractions of a second, but with rare exceptions, it works exactly like this.
After processing the command on the server, the command is either sent back in the form of a reverse command, or a search query is formed, based on the results of which a voice response is generated (in the case of a smartphone, also a visual one). In the first case, the light turns on, the door opens, and the like, and in the second, the weather or, for example, the latest news is announced.
It costs itself and performs the commands.
In addition, work through the server allows you to make smart home gadgets more versatile. This is how you can ensure their work remotely. For example, turn on the kettle when approaching the house, turn on the garage light in advance, or turn on the robot vacuum cleaner while at work.
Why do voice assistants speak in a female voice?
To answer this question, it is worth turning to psychology or just asking the question, whose voice will be pleasant for a person – male or female? Men will answer that it is female, and the opinion of women will be divided. The female will not repel any of them, even if the male is nicer.
This is the answer. It's just that all people are more loyal to the female voice than to the male. However, some assistants offer a male version of the voice if you wish. But manufacturers are reluctant to introduce a voice selection feature. In this case, the most important thing is lost – the user's attitude to the assistant, as a living assistant, and not as a machine.
In addition, it is believed that the female voice calms and allows you to more calmly relate to what is happening. That is why in almost all military aircraft, it is a woman's voice that commands are voiced about approaching a critical angle of attack, a possible stall and other unpleasant moments.
What voice do you think a voice assistant should speak if it cannot be changed? Answer below and let's discuss it in detail in our Telegram chat.
How do voice assistants sound?
As I said above, many voice assistants work with a fully synthetic voice. That is, everything they say is just voice acting with certain timbre, tonality and other parameters. No living person is behind this. An example of such assistants is Google's assistant.
Some voice assistants, on the contrary, are voiced by real people who, in ordinary life, are actors, announcers, or are engaged in voice acting (advertising, cartoons, gadgets). This makes the voice more human and the user perceives it not as a computer, but as a real assistant. The psyche is so arranged that it is easier and more pleasant to feel the presence of a person than the presence of a “soulless” piece of iron.
This is how the voice data is recorded in the studio.
To construct a voice model, its owner must read out many typical phrases and sounds, which are then processed and generated into the voice of the assistant himself. The more phrases are recorded, the more lively the voice will be and the fewer mistakes will be made.
One example of an underdeveloped voice I came across while driving around the United States. The navigator, which I took in the same place as the car, was in Russian. Instead of “Hai Wei,” the navigator said “Hwai”. The localized voices of the navigator are not as important as the voice assistant, which should be almost everywhere. Therefore, there I reacted to it with humor and once again made sure that the creators of voices for assistants do their work more responsibly. I have never come across such jambs, for example, with Alice.
Who voices the voice assistants?
Probably the most famous voice voiced by voice assistants is Susan Bennett. It was she who gave her voice to the original Siri in English.
She was born in 1949 in Clinton, New York, USA. Susan devoted her whole life to art, being engaged in acting, and even tried herself as a producer. Although, she does not have many movie roles, but she has a lot of voice acting.
For example, she has voiced commercials for Ford, Coca-Cola, Fisher-Price, McDonald’s, Goodyear, VISA, Hot Pockets, Cartoon Network and others. In addition, her voice is spoken by the notification system at Delta Air Lines terminals around the world, various navigation systems and telephone systems. Since October 4, 2011, she has immortalized her voice in the face of Siri.
Susan Bennett (English Siri).
In the Russian version, the assistant from Apple speaks in the voice of Maria Konoplyanskaya. It is impossible to find a lot of information about her, but we can definitely say that her experience in the field of voice acting is not as great as that of Susan Bennett. In addition, it is worth noting that her voice is very heavily processed, but you can still recognize her mistress in it.
Konoplyanskaya Maria (Russian Siri)
Another assistant option is Alexa from Amazon. The original voice is also based on a computer, however, later it was decided to add a male voice and Samuel L. Jackson was chosen as its basis. Let me remind you that among his major works recently, one can note the role of Fury in the Marvel films.
Samuel L. Jackson (Alexa colleague).
Many people know a voice assistant like Cortana from Microsoft. The assistant got its name in honor of the heroine of the Halo computer games series, which are released on the XBox and PC, bypassing the PlayStation. In the original, the voice of the assistant is the same person who voices the heroine of the game – Jen Taylor.
Jen Taylor (Cortana).
Here we got to our compatriot, who was originally supposed to be called Maya, but this name was abandoned, since it is very similar to the name of the month and can accidentally trigger when pronouncing ordinary phrases. As a result, she received the name Alice. Among other things, to the requirements by name was the absence of the sound “er”, which is poorly pronounced by small children, and it should not be common, again to eliminate accidental positives. However, in this respect, the authors were still reinsured and made it possible to call the assistant with the word “Yandex”. If Alice lives in the family, that's okay, but if there is someone named Yandex, it's worth thinking about it. If two children were named by Alice and Yandex, then the authorized bodies should already strain.
The voice of Alice is Tatyana Shitova, who voices Scarlett Johansson, Charlize Theron and some other actresses in films in Russian.
Tatiana Shitova (Alice).
I could not find anywhere confirmation of this version and even mention of it, but one coincidence seems very strange to me. In 2014, the science fiction film Lucy was released, in which Scarlett Johansson played the main role. At the end of the film, the main character was able to place her mind, pumped as a result of exposure to a strong hormone, inside the computer. As a result, it ended up in every computer in the world with an exclusively good purpose.
So, a few years later Yandex releases an assistant and he speaks in the voice of that same Lucy. Perhaps this is a coincidence, perhaps not, but the fact seemed to me very interesting.
As you can see, all assistants are different, but the use of a live voice in them helps a lot to use all the functions, do it with pleasure and easily perceive what is said. Of course, they will continue to develop. In the end, each of us will have his own Jarvis at home, who will do literally everything. So far, assistants can only help, but their presence in the speakers already makes life easier. The most important thing is that you get used to them and begin to appreciate them. Therefore, we are waiting for the development of this technological direction.