Meet the woman behind the voice of Siri
The ‘voice’ of Siri steps forward
Siri is so coy.
I was sitting at my desk and decided to ask who she really was. She danced around the topic. Eventually she did what she was trained to do, focus the attention back to me, the iPhone user.
What a gal.
Of course, we may never know who the new voice of Siri is on iOS 7. That human being;s identity has never been revealed. But if I would have asked Siri who she really was last month, she could have told me. Because that person is now speaking out.
Siri (in older iOS versions) by all accounts is Susan Bennett from suburban Atlanta. She was introduced to all iPhone users on the iPhone 4S on October 4, 2011.
Apple will not confirm Bennett is behind the voice of Siri. But those who have worked with the voice talent say it’s her by all accounts. Even an audio-forensics expert with 30 years of experience claims that Bennet’s voice is 100% that of the elder Siri.
Once Bennett knew she was Siri (that’s right, at first she didn’t even know!), she had to keep the secret. It wasn’t until recently she decided to come forward to CNN as the woman with the helpful voice.
“I really had to weigh the importance of it for me personally. 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 said. “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.”
The current voice of Siri has not been revealed. If you have iOS 7, you’ll notice that the voice is a bitter different than the first version of Siri.
But CNN has studied the topic far and wide and found some pretty interesting proof that Bennett is not only the first Siri, but actually was surprised to learn hers was the voice in the pockets of millions of iPhone users around the globe.
Bennett was in the voice business for decades. She worked with a previous company ScanSoft, a software company, that was looking for a voice for a new project. It reached out to GM Voices, a company that had established a niche recording voices for automated voice technologies.
Bennett, a trusted talent who had done lots of work with GM Voices, was one of the options presented. ScanSoft liked what it heard, and in June 2005 Bennett signed a contract offering her voice for recordings that would be used in a database to construct speech.
“A colleague e-mailed me [about Siri] and said, ‘Hey, we’ve been playing around with this new Apple phone. Isn’t this you?'”
Bennett went to her computer, pulled up Apple’s site and listened to video clips announcing Siri. The voice was unmistakably hers.
“Oh, I knew,” she said. “It’s obviously me. It’s my voice.”
CNN took the investigation one step further by hiring an audio forensics expert to compare Bennett’s voice with Siri’s.
Ed Primeau, of Rochester Hills, Michigan, has been doing this work for three decades. He’s testified in courts, analyzed “hundreds, if not thousands” of recordings and is a member of the American Board of Recorded Evidence. He spent four hours studying our “known voice” — in this case Siri — with the unknown voice of Bennett.
“I believe, and I’ve lived this for 30 years, no two voices are the same,” he said, after finishing his analysis of the Siri voice and Bennett’s. “They are identical — a 100% match.”
To reach his conclusion Primeau created back-to-back comparison files, lifted and listened to consonants and reviewed deliveries. He took the hiss off the Siri sound, created in recording from a phone, and dropped it into Bennett’s file.
After studying Bennett’s normal speaking voice, he was about 70% certain of the match. But once he had audio of her saying the same words as Siri, he knew his work was done. Even so, he said he asked a colleague for a second opinion.
“I understand the importance of accuracy,” Primeau said. “Rest assured: It’s 100% Susan.”