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“This is not really the case.” Kasisto’s banking bot Kai gives financial companies such as Mastercard a way to handle about 80% of online customer conversations without involving humans.
If Apple’s Siri launched today, one wonders if it would still be designed as a slightly sassy, demure female assistant. While Amazon’s Alexa (2014), Siri (2011), and Microsoft’s Cortana (2013, named after a nude character in the video game Halo) staked out their identities years ago, the world is changing.
New bot startups are steering away from deferential, mildly flirtatious females toward a more balanced mix of genders and, in many cases, casting off human genders altogether. Bots are “the new app,” says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, ready to inject themselves into our daily lives.
“We believe strongly in the idea of humanizing intelligent agents and that includes us openly portraying gender in our two agents,” he says.
“But I don’t think as a industry we’ve agreed that to humanize our agents is the best thing to do.” For now, male and female-inflected bots are the most visible, although the gender balance is still in flux.
In a Quartz analysis earlier this year by my colleague Leah Fessler, Google and Cortana were the most likely to respond to harassment with incomprehension or a web search while Siri and Alexa were more likely to evade the question or even respond positively.