You all know Siri, the voice of iOS’ personal assistant, who has starred in numerous videos and even spoke during an Apple keynote. But who is she? Is she really Allison Dufty, the woman shown in The Verge’s video “How Siri Found its Voice?”. Well, it appears that she is not. CNN has the details.
The voice talent behind Siri’s voice has come into focus again after The Verge posted a great video about how Nuance Communications, the company behind Siri, programs its latest Dragon Reader software, “How Siri Found its Voice?”. The video led us to believe that she is Allison Dufty the featured voiceover talent. Turns out she isn’t, and she took that to her website as well.
I was recently interviewed by The Verge for a behind-the-scenes feature video on what it takes to make a computer voice. Unfortunately, The Verge decided to headline the piece “How Siri Got Its Voice,” which made it easy for viewers to miss that the piece was about the HOW and not the WHO of Siri, or any other synthesized voice, Allison Dufty wrote on her blog.
There are many computer voices out there, and I am one of them, just not THAT one. No where in the video or article does it say that I am the voice of Siri, and anyone listening to me speak can hear that, other being female, there are no similarities to our voices.
So who is Siri’s voice? Is she a real woman? Yes. It turns out she is Atlanta resident and veteran voice actress, Susan Bennett. Apple is of course silent, just like Nuance, who is widely known to provide the technology behind Siri. But an audio forensic expert with 30 years of experience is 100% sure she is the talent we were looking for.
Bennett, started her voice talent career in the 1970s. Today, she can be heard worldwide: in commercials and on countless phone systems, spelling out directions from GPS devices and addressing travelers in Delta airport terminals.
According to Brennett, Siri’s story begins back in 2005 when she signed a contract with ScanSoft for a new voice project: 4 hours a day for a whole month. At the time, she didn’t know how her voice would be used.
The story of how Bennett became this iconic voice began in 2005. ScanSoft, a software company, was looking for a voice for a new project. It reached out to GM Voices, a suburban Atlanta 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.
For four hours a day, every day, in July 2005, Bennett holed up in her home recording booth. Hour after hour, she read nonsensical phrases and sentences so that the “ubergeeks” — as she affectionately calls them; they leave her awestruck — could work their magic by pulling out vowels, consonants, syllables and diphthongs, and playing with her pitch and speed.
The surprise came in October 2011, when the iPhone 4S launched and Apple introduced Siri, the personal assistant.
Check out the full CNN video below: