You've gone ultrasonic again

Published May 26, 2019

Voice activation image

I’ve never really got on that well with Siri. Apple’s voice activated assistant can do some cool things but she never really listens to me and I find it easier just to swipe and tap to get what I want.

I’m not alone in getting frustrated with Siri, but I’ve long been complaining to Mr C that she just doesn’t listen to me. He’s not experienced the same level of problems and I was taking it personally.

According to Invisible Women, though, Caroline Criado Perez’s incredible book about the gender data gap, it’s not that Siri has anything against me personally, it’s just that she wasn’t designed with me in mind.

Voice recognition has also been suggested as a solution to smartphone-associated RSI, but this actually isn’t much of a solution for women, because voice-recognition software is often hopelessly male-biased. In 2016, Rachael Tatman, a research fellow in linguistics at the University of Washington, found that Google’s speech-recognition software was 70% more likely to accurately recognise male speech than female speech – and it’s currently the best on the market.

… An article on car website Autoblog quoted a woman who had bought a 2012 Ford Focus, only to find that its voice-command system only listened to her husband, even though he was in the passenger seat. Another woman called the manufacturer for help when her Buick’s voice-activated phone system wouldn’t listen to her: ‘The guy told me point-blank it wasn’t ever going to work for me. They told me to get a man to set it up.’ Immediately after writing these pages I was with my mother in her Volvo Cross-Country watching her try and fail to get the voice-recognition system to call her sister. After five failed attempts I suggested she tried lowering the pitch of her voice. It worked first time.

This book continues to astound me. Every sentence is thought-provoking, and quite often enraging.

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