VentureBeat’s Bots Channel tracks the most important news and analysis from the exploding field of bots and messaging. Each week, we select the top stories and present them in our free weekly newsletter, BotBeat. We include news stories by VentureBeat staff, guest articles from leading figures in the bots community, and a good number of posts from a wide variety of other outlets. You can subscribe to our BotBeat newsletter to receive this information in your inbox every Thursday.

Here’s this week’s newsletter:

One might think that yesterday’s celebration of International Women’s Day would have prompted the makers of voice assistants — namely Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, among others —  to do something about their reliance on female personas. Only Siri, its name aside, has a male voice option.

Why would it be so hard to provide this option? The navigation app Waze often changes its voices. Even the New York Times — yes, the New York Times! — lets you select a voice option for its popular Scientific 7-Minute Workout app. (For the record, I prefer Phoebe to guide me through my planks, squats, and abdominal crunches.)

At least Amazon’s Alexa is an unabashed feminist. As Khari Johnson reports, ask “‘Alexa, who inspires you?’ and she will talk about mathematician Ada Lovelace or scientist Marie Curie, as well as gymnast Simone Biles and Pakistani human rights activist Malala Yousafzai.”

As always, please send news tips to Khari Johnson and guest post submissions to John Brandon. Be sure to visit our Bots Channel for comprehensive news on bots and messaging.

Thanks for reading,

Blaise Zerega

Editor in Chief
P.S. Please enjoy this video from WSJ’s Joanna Stern: Alexa, Siri, Cortana: Why All Your Bots Are Female?

From the Bots Channel

Primatologist and author Jane Goodall.

Alexa is a feminist. Here are the women who inspire her

With the growth of bot and artificial intelligence industries, questions of gender representation and sexism have arisen. None of the major intelligent assistants except Siri even have a male voice option, and artificial intelligence has been said to have a “sea of dudes” problem. But ask Amazon’s Alexa who she is inspired by and you […]

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The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building is pictured in Langley, Virginia, U.S. on August 14, 2008.

WikiLeaks: CIA can hack Android phones and Samsung TVs

(Reuters) – Anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks on Tuesday said it had obtained a secret trove of hacking tools used by the CIA to break into or circumvent the security of phones, communication apps and other devices, and published confidential documents describing those programs. Among the most noteworthy WikiLeaks claims are that the Central Intelligence Agency, in […]

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Google Home

Google Assistant gets a baby tracker, art history, and its funniest service yet

About a dozen new Google Assistant actions have been made available in recent days, including a baby activity monitor and a train tracker for San Francisco’s BART system. More than 30 new actions have been added for Google Assistant in the course of the past week, representing the largest addition of new services since the platform […]

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Yahoo sign San Francisco Owen Byrne FlickrYahoo’s new Captain bot keeps track of things you need to do

Yahoo has launched another bot, called Captain, with the specific mission of reminding you about things you need to do. This SMS-based tool will manage lists and reminders, and all you have to do is text “Hi” to 773-786 to begin the process. This Siri-meets-Evernote bot lets you input any reminders you want to receive, and […]

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Voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa may become the center of home entertainment.

Why voice assistants will become the center of home entertainment

The mass adoption of the radio changed American homes forever. In 1930, more than 40 percent of American households owned a radio; a decade later, 83 percent owned at least one. The radio brought news, entertainment, music, sports, politics (think Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats), and advertisements to millions of Americans. It was the first time […]

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Using Doctor on Demand on a mobile device.

Forget Obamacare — AI is driving the real health care transformation

The Washington fight over the future of Obamacare will have enormous repercussions for our health care system, which now accounts for nearly 18 percent of the U.S. economy. But that impact pales before the transformation already underway due to the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. AI and machine learning are forcing dramatic […]

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Beyond VB

As Messenger’s bots lose steam, Facebook pushes menus over chat

Facebook’s Messenger bots may not be having the impact the social network desired. Just yesterday, online retailer Everlane, one of the launch partners for the bot platform, announced it was ditching Messenger for customer notifications and returning to email. Following this, Facebook today announced an upgraded Messenger Platform, which introduces a new way for users to interact with bots: via simple persistent menus, including those without the option to chat with the bot at all. (via TechCrunch)

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Facebook won’t force you to chat with its chatbots anymore

Enough with the small talk. Contrary to their name, Facebook’s hordes of third-party Messenger chatbots have never been the strongest conversationalists. Try to get one to, say, order a pizza and too often you’ll find yourself stumbling through a drawn-out back-and-forth that’ll make you pull your hair out. (via Mashable)

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Netflix CEO: Our future audience may be AI lifeforms

Twenty to fifty years from now, when “you’re starting to get into some serious AI,” Reed Hastings isn’t sure whether Netflix is going to be entertaining you or entertaining the artificially intelligent bots. (via USA Today)

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The traditional customer journey will cease to exist: How bots and NLP are shifting the customer journey

“Bots” may be something that is just dismissed by many as the latest buzzword of the moment, but their evolution was one of the most significant technological developments of recent years. It is quickly becoming clear that bots are going to have a huge impact on customer engagement, transforming not only the way customers find companies, but also how companies service their customers. (via LinkedIn)

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