Alexa or Alex? Under-35s Prefer Alexa, so do Most People

Neuroscience research firm, Neuro-Insight, in partnership with WPP media agency, Mindshare, conducted a study of consumer responses to digitized voices. The study consisted of analyzing the subconscious brain responses of 105 subjects aged between 18 and 65. It is important to note that a study of 105 people is considerably small, and insights based solely on this study should be taken with a grain of salt due to small sample bias.

Photo Credit: Smart Insights

Consumers Prefer Female Voice Assistants

The main conclusions include that at a conscious level, both men and women liked female voices better. As content becomes more opinionated, people find the male voice more off-putting. There was a difference in audiences preference subject to age group, with young people much more open to female voices than older audiences. And some controversial findings, over 29% of people have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant. Here are some more precise figures:

  • Respondents of both genders 35 years old and younger found a female voice more approachable and more compelling than a male one. Younger audiences found female voices to be 102% more approachable than male voices, and 22% more compelling than male voices.
  • Those of both genders over 35 found a female voice to be more approachable and a male voice to be more compelling. Older audiences found a male voice to be 25% more compelling than a female voice.
  • Subjects of all ages and genders found a female voice to be 32% more approachable than a male voice.

The notion that female voices are more warm and welcoming than male voices is confirmed by this study, perhaps explaining why Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, and Cortana were all initially available only with female voices. These companies claim that their voice assistants are genderless, Alexa instead a ‘female in character’ and Cortana a ‘cloud of infinitesimal data computation.’ (That’s what they say if asked what their gender is.)

Why do Voice Assistants Need a Gender?

Mindshare says that this data will allow clients to create in-depth strategies around voice interactions, and it makes sense. However, it is also something developers of voice assistants have already been doing. Human beings don’t enjoy using voice assistants that do not sound human-like. That’s why most voice assistants now include gendered voice options for consumers to use, and is also why gendered voices are both offered in varying tones.

Tech companies know consumers are interested in human-like interaction. Take the efforts by Apple for Siri to include pauses in sentences, elongate certain syllables, and change tone while speaking. Siri and Google Assistant offer multiple options in gender and tone. Although Alexa has not changed voices, strides in voice personalization are being made in other ways. Developers now have the option to use eight different voices, 4 male, and 4 female, in their responses. In September Alexa also introduced Alexios in order to promote Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Alexios is a male Spartan warrior who answers 1500+ queries with anecdotes from his time in battle. The introduction of Alexios was definitely a marketing move by Assassin’s Creed, but also a move supported by Amazon to appeal to a wider audience through personalization of a voice.

The research results offered by this study indicates a change in younger audiences, too. The vocal variety now being offered by most companies allows the preferences of younger and older audiences alike to be taken into consideration. What we will likely see going forward is more personalities and customization of voice.

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