Embodiment and gender interact in alignment to TTS voices

AbstractThe current study tests subjects’ vocal alignment toward female and male text-to-speech (TTS) voices presented via three systems: Amazon Echo, Nao, and Furhat. These systems vary in their physical form, ranging from a cylindrical speaker (Echo), to a small robot (Nao), to a human-like robot bust (Furhat). We test whether this cline of personification (cylinder < mini robot < human-like robot bust) predicts patterns of gender-mediated vocal alignment. In addition to comparing multiple systems, this study addresses a confound in many prior vocal alignment studies by using identical voices across the systems. Results show evidence for a cline of personification toward female TTS voices by female shadowers (Echo < Nao < Furhat) and a more categorical effect of device personification for male TTS voices by male shadowers (Echo < Nao, Furhat). These findings are discussed in terms of their implications for models of device-human interaction and theories of computer personification.

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