Ever wonder who Siri, Apple’s voice-activated virtual “assistant,” really is while she’s reminding you of your schedule or recommending the best places in the area to dump a body?
CNN did, and has identified the voice — first introduced to consumers with the iPhone 4S in 2011 — as Susan Bennett, a veteran voice actress who lives in suburban Atlanta.
“When I first discovered that that was my voice, to be honest, it was a little creepy,” Bennett told the news organization in a video (above). “I’m used to hearing my voice maybe in the airport … but this real thing that you can interact with in your hand was a little — it took some time for me to get used to it. But she and I are friends now.”
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Apple won’t confirm her participation in creating the voice that has become synonymous with the American version of the iPhone, but an audio-forensics expert CNN hired to compare both voices says he is “100%” certain the two are the same.
“The first time I actually heard my voice as Siri was when my friend emailed me and said, ‘Isn’t this you?’ Because I didn’t have the newest version of the iPhone, I went to the Apple site. And that’s when I heard the voice,” Bennett said. “I just went, ‘Oh. Hmm. That is me!”
The revelation comes in the wake of a Verge video, “How Siri found its voice,” which led some to believe that featured voiceover actress Allison Dufty provided the vocal articulation that software company ScanSoft (now Nuance Communications) engineers synthesized in a process called concatenation. Dufty promptly denied the assumption, while Bennett quietly watched the speculation unfold.
“I wasn’t sure that I wanted that notoriety, and I also wasn’t sure where I stood legally. And so, consequently, I was very conservative about it for a long time,” she sai. “And then this Verge video came out … And it seemed like everyone was clamoring to find out who the real voice behind Siri is, and so I thought, well, you know, what the heck? This is the time.”
Bennett — who has been providing machines their voices since the 1970s — can be heard around the world in commercials, GPS devices, telephone systems and Delta airport terminals. Her time as Siri is running out, however, as Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS7, features new Siri voices.