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article imageIntel developing 'genderless' AI

By James Walker     Mar 15, 2017 in Technology
Intel is developing a new artificially intelligent assistant that will be genderless, moving the tech industry away from the perceived "feminine" nature of most current AIs. The system will debut on a new smartwatch Intel is building with TAG Heuer.
Announced this week, the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 is a circular smartwatch with a 1.39-inch touchscreen display. It's powered by an Intel Atom Z34XX processor and 4GB of memory. The watch will run Android Wear 2.0, the latest version of Google's wearable operating system.
Although the Connected Modular 45 is being recognised for its Swiss design and blend of traditional and modern technology, one of its software features could be the most significant component. Intel is building a futuristic virtual assistant to sit on the watch, enabling owners to use their voice to ask questions and carry out commands.
Cortana on an Android phone
Cortana on an Android phone
Not a lot is known about the assistant at present. However, Jerry Bautista, vice president of the New Technology Group at Intel, told The Verge it will have a genderless personality. As Silicon Valley debates whether tech companies should use female AI personas by default, Intel's move will enable it to avoid the controversy aimed at its industry rivals.
In particular, Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana are designed as female assistants. Alexa's name hasn't proved popular with feminists and Amazon has been criticised for reinforcing sexist views.
For its part, Cortana's personality is generally female too. Although the assistant is derived from the female Cortana character in Microsoft's Halo video games, opponents of the brand say Microsoft should be doing more to develop an obviously gender-neutral variant.
Google Assistant
Google Assistant
Google has also been targeted. It deliberately left its new AI without a "human" name. Google Assistant still defaults to a female persona though, making the neutral "Assistant" branding a wasted effort. With it clear that people want to at least have a choice over their assistant's gender, Intel's solution could be better received than the assistants launched to date.
Details are currently scant on what Intel's take will offer or how its "genderless" nature is achieved. The Verge reports the app will be able to handle voice conversations while maintaining context, proactively give you reminders and alerts throughout the day and integrate with other services. Intel is calling it a "new experience of time," suggesting it will be a smartwatch-exclusive service for now.
TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45
TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45
The TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45 is available from today online and in TAG Heuer stores and specialist watch vendors. It retails from $1,600 USD and comes in a choice of satin or polished grade 5 titanium base finishes. The design is available in 56 different variants encompassing a large selection of personalisation options.
Intel's assistant will arrive in a software update later in the device's life. It isn't clear when the AI will launch or what platforms it'll be available on.
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