Why Do Computers Always Have a Lady's Voice?

Some of gaming's most cunning foes have been computers. Think GlaDOS from Portal, or Shodan from System Shock 2. At least part of what makes them so memorable is that their artificial intelligence is brought to life by a cold, calculating, female voice.

Friendly artificial intelligence usually skews female as well. Anyone who's played Deus Ex: Human Revolution will know this, while Halo and Mass Effect are two other big franchises with prominent computers voiced by female actors.

Actually, when you think about it, a lot of real fake robot voices sound like fake women as well. Apple's new Siri, for one (at least she is for American users). Or just about any automated subway announcement system. Or default GPS navigator.

Ever wonder why this is? Why designers and engineers the world over choose a woman's voice for their systems and not a man's? A great piece on CNN seeks to answer this question for the ages.

Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass has an idea. "It's much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes," he says. "It's a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices."

While this is a primal theory, there are more historical ones too, such as the fact early telephonists and aircraft navigation aides were voiced by women, creating a precedent.

Silicon Valley analyst Tim Bajarin has a cooler idea, though: He reckons HAL, the evil computer from 2001, is the reason most artificial voices are female. He was so evil, and so memorable, that he scared companies off using a male voice. "A lot of tech companies stayed away from the male voice because of HAL," he said. "I've heard that theory tossed around multiple times."

Why computer voices are mostly female [CNN, via PC Gamer]