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Digital assistants are visually relatively bland devices designed perhaps to fit inconspicuously into any room setting. So these two less formal ‘smart speakers’ from the South Korean internet giant Navar are a refreshing alternative. However cute these products appear they are part of a gender conundrum.

Alex Hern writes in the Guardian Newspaper that whilst Apple Siri has a male voice in some territories such as the UK, in others it has a female one. The other assistants including Microsoft Cortina, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant .... “all three are supposed to be a woman. Whilst these voices can be replaced by the user the one they come with says a lot about each company’s perception of women. Alex notes that providing assistance has long been considered a woman’s role ... the robots that men voice tend to be in a position of power. Patriarchy tells us that women serve, while men order....  and technology firms seem content to play to these stereotypes.”

Perhaps making these speakers animals could have made them genderless and overcome this bias. However, while the bear is called ‘Brown’ the duck is named ‘Sally’ and online videos show that both have a female voice !