August 25, 2022

Silicon Valley Startup Introduces Voice-Altering Tech To Make Workers Sound “More White”

Silicon Valley-based startup, Sanas, is working to build real-time voice-altering technology that aims to make international workers sound more “Westernized.” 

For many years, Black workers have been advised to use their “white voice” when communicating with colleagues or customers in a professional working environment. Additionally, movie adaptations such as “Sorry To Bother You” show that Black workers achieve higher success rates when they choose to emulate a “whiter” voice.  

Despite the program working to “protect the diverse voice identities of the world,” many wonder whether the product is actively working to remove unconscious bias or further perpetuating it. 

Sanas, co-founded in 2020 by Sharath Keshava Narayana and Maxim Serebryakov, was initially designed to help revolutionize communication by giving multilingual speakers a choice regarding how they choose to communicate. 

The tech product uses artificial intelligence to remove the accents of non-native or even native English speakers, to remove the hurdle that comes with not understanding certain accents. The app operates on outgoing audio, which means it cannot manipulate how someone else sounds through a push. 

“What we’re doing is allowing agents to maintain their identity, maintain their accents, without the need to change it,” said Maxim Serebryakov, CEO of Sanas. 

“The call center market is enormous; we’re not talking about a few thousand people getting discriminated against on a daily basis because of their cultural identity. We’re talking about millions and millions of people that get treated differently because of the way they sound.” 

The program’s AI engine aims to transform a speaker’s accent – primarily making non-Americans sound more like white Americans. Sanas hopes its technology can help provide a solution to workers who face accent discrimination or language barrier while working. 

Kumba Kpakima

Kumba Kpakima is a reporter at POCIT. A documentary about the knife crime epidemic in the UK got her a nomination for the UK's #30toWatch Young Journalists of the Year.