Designing A Chatbot: Male, Female Or Gender Neutral?

By Queenie Wong
The Mercury News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Some developers are creating MALE chatbots and messaging apps challenging a tradition of female digital assistants that some say display submissive personalities.

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Picture a virtual assistant that helps find directions, schedules appointments or plays music, and the soothing yet robotic sound of a female voice likely comes to mind.

From Apple’s Siri to Amazon’s Alexa, a majority of the world’s most popular virtual assistants have female personas.

But that’s starting to change as a growing number of consumers, and companies, turn to digital assistants.

Some developers are going against the grain, creating chatbots and messaging apps that no longer conform to one gender and challenging a tradition of female digital assistants that some say display submissive personalities.

Making virtual assistants female by default can be bad for business and perpetuate stereotypes, these chatbot developers say, so they’re offering more options to consumers.

“A bot can be male or female, but I think it doesn’t need to be submissive … ,” said Dror Oren, co-founder and vice president of product at Kasisto. “It can be a woman and have a smart, authoritative approach. A lot of bots are women, but they show behavior which is not necessarily what I would like to see when I think about my daughters.”

The New York startup, which spun off from a Silicon Valley research company called SRI International that helped create Siri, developed a banking chatbot called MyKAI that launched in 2016 to manage money, track expenses or even answer banking questions.

Available on Facebook Messenger, Slack and text message, the bot can answer questions such as, “How much did I spend on groceries last week,” “How much money do I have in my checking account,” or “What is compound interest?”

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