Beta 6 of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, macOS Big Sur 11.3 Available for Testing
The sixth beta versions of macOS Big Sur 11.3, iOS 14.5, and iPadOS 14.5 have been made available to users enrolled in the beta testing programs for Apple operating systems. Both public beta and developer beta builds are available.
The latest beta 6 of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 includes two new Siri voice options and removes gender specification for Siri voices, intead labeling them as Voice 1, Voice 2, Voice 3, etc, and has relabeled the category of “Accent” to “Variety”, all as part of a broad diversity and inclusion initiative from Apple, according to TechCrunch. Additionally, the default Siri voice is no longer female in the USA, instead opting to allow the user to choose a masculine or feminine voice during device setup. Aside from the aforementioned voice adjustments, no new capabilities or functionalities related to Siri itself are noted in the beta.
Betas of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 also include support for Playstation 5 and Xbox X game controllers, the ability to unlock an iPhone using Apple Watch, dual SIM card support for 5G networks, and some additional privacy features. Also, iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 include new diverse and inclusive Emoji icons including a woman with a beard, and numerous skin color options for the couples emojis, along with some other new emoji icons like a vaccine syringe, coughing face, dazed face, heart on fire, bandaged heart.
macOS Big Sur 11.3 beta 6 arrives as build 20E5224a and includes a new control panel for setting touch alternatives when using iOS and iPadOS apps on a compatible Apple Silicon Mac, new customization options for Safari, the Reminders app has regained a list feature, Reminders can be printed again, and there is support for Playstation 5 and Xbox X controllers as well. Some other minor changes are available throughout the operating system too, including to the Apple Music app. The new Emoji icons from iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 are also likely to be included in Big Sur 11.3, and perhaps the new Siri voice changes too, though those are yet to be confirmed.
iPhone and iPad beta users who are enrolled in the beta testing programs can download iOS 14.5 beta 36 or iPadOS 14.5 beta 6 from the Software Update function within Settings app.
macOS Big Sur beta testers can download the latest 11.3 beta 6 build from the Software Update function of System Preferences.
Apple usually goes through several beta builds before issuing a final version to the public, suggesting that the finalization of macOS Big Sur 11.3, iOS 14.5, and iPadOS 14.5 are around the corner.
Public beta builds are available to any user, but due to the buggier nature of beta system software they typically are only recommended for advanced users to run on secondary hardware. The vast majority of users are best served waiting for the final releases to become available.
The latest stable builds of Apple system software are currently macOS Big Sur 11.2.3, iPadOS 14.4.2, and iOS 14.4.2.
Who was petitioning Apple for this change? “THIS VOICE SAYS MALE BUT THE PERSON MIGHT IDENTIFY AS FEMALE SO STOP CALLING IT MALE”. Some people like having the Australian male voice for Maps. I guess now they will have to find it by trial and error. I’m all for gender-fluidity, but this is way over the top.
Siri hasn’t really improved functionally since release a decade ago, it still searches the web, or perhaps retrieves Wikipedia articles for most queries. It is so far behind Alexa and Google that I am surprised Apple doesn’t simply license Alexa from Amazon instead.
Obviously it must be very difficult for Apple to improve Siri functions, and from a functional perspective it has been stagnant since launch. However, removing gender identification and accent labels from Siri is technically speaking an easier matter, editing several characters of text within a document and committing it to their code repository, and that improvement has been made.
Improvement to Siri is merely in the eye of the beholder. For some, a better Siri would include new features, functions, and raw capabilities. Whereas for others, a better Siri has no identity characteristics or labels and is more inclusive and diverse.
One wonders why Apple doesn’t have a few voices that simply can have their pitch changed from deeper to higher, then users can determine how masculine, feminine, or non-binary they want their Siri voices to be. That would be highly customizable and solve the Siri gender problem.
What stood out to me is how research has long suggested (1: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mar.21480) that for AI, a female voice is considered more human, and thus leads people to be more comfortable using the AI. Maybe by homogenizing the voices and removing identifying characteristics from them, Apple is implying that Siri is mostly a dictation service and search front end? (As a side thought, I can’t help but wonder if the bias against male AI voice is the result of HAL from 2001. Had HAL been a female voice, would these studies still hold true about the humanness of gendered AI?)
Siri obviously is the opposite of Alexa, which has a focus mostly on capabilities and pushes new functional boundaries seemingly by the day, and is quite impressive from a technical standpoint.