It’s Not You, It’s It: Voice Recognition Doesn’t Recognize Women

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Here’s something that could either relieve a lot of tension, or increase paranoia about whether or not the world is ignoring you: If you’re a woman, there’s a strong possibility that your voice-activated car really isn’t listening to you.

Thankfully, the problem is all the car’s. According to AOL Autos, carmakers “acknowledge that women have a tougher time using speech-recognition technology than men” because the systems have a hard time deciphering what was actually said.

It’s not only women who have this problem; male drivers with foreign or even thick regional accents also, apparently, can’t be understood by the systems either:

Foreign accents still stump most systems. David Champion, who leads Consumer Reports’ auto testing department, often stymies cars with his British accent. His voice isn’t even picked up by British car brands, like Land Rover. When he asks it to do something, the car will respond in a British accent, saying, “Sorry?”

People lose patience easily with voice technology, Champion says. Drivers start getting annoyed if they have to repeat something once or twice. “Once you get to three times, you think this is a piece of junk,” he says.

The solution, according to the carmakers, may be changing the way that people speak – According to the VP of voice technology for auto supplier ATX Group, Tom Schalk, “many issues with women’s voices could be fixed if female drivers were willing to sit through lengthy training… Women could be taught to speak louder, and direct their voices towards the microphone” – but that seems not only impractical but also fairly insulting to the user.

As one of the foreign-accented people who always gets misunderstood by voice-automated systems, I’m just hoping that they decide to go the alternate route and try and improve the software of said systems, instead. If nothing else, to save on the need for my shouting continuously.