Technology|Looking for a Choice of Voices in AI Technology

By QUENTIN HARDYOctober 9, 2016Jason Mars is an African-American professor of computer science who also runs a tech start-up. When his company’s artificially intelligent smartphone app talks, he said, it sounds “like a helpful, young Caucasian female.”“There’s a kind of pressure to conform to the prejudices of the world” when you are trying to make a consumer hit, he said. “It would be interesting to have a black guy talk, but we don’t want to create friction, either. First we need to sell products.”Mr. Mars’s start-up is part of a growing high-tech field called conversational computing. This technology is being popularized by programs like the Siri system in Apple’s iPhone, and Alexa, which is built into the Echo, Amazon’s artificially intelligent home computing device, the Echo.Conversational computing is holding a mirror to…


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