If you own an iPhone, you’ve probably used Siri by now: it’s the digital personal assistant who you ask when you wish to call someone, send a message or maybe schedule an appointment. The answers are delivered by a female or male voice (it’s up to you), but have you ever wondered who the people behind the voices are? The Guardian’s Hannah Jane Parkinson has interviewed three of them: Susan Bennett (Vox interviewed her earlier this year), Jon Briggs and Karen Jacobsen.
In an interview published today, the three voice-over artists talk about their experience with Apple, how they ended up being the voice of Siri, and what it’s like. Jon Briggs is known as the voice of The Weakest Link, and he was the first British voice of male Siri. Susan Bennett is known as the American voice of Siri and also that of Delta Airlines. Karen Jacobsen is renowned in Australia as the GPS girl, and she is also a singer.
Here is the story of how they ended up being “trapped” in the pockets of millions of people around the world:
Susan: All of the original Siri voices worldwide came from a bank of digital voices that were recorded in 2005. I recorded four hours a day, five days a week for a month. The process is called concatenation, and the reason the original Siri was so iconic is because she was the first concatenated voice to actually sound human.
Karen: I had an audition. I read the brief and thought: “This is me. This job is mine!” I went to the audition and got the job on the spot!
Jon: The original system was recorded for a US company called Scansoft, who were then bought by Nuance. Apple simply licensed it.
Since the October 4, 2011 debut of Siri, Apple has changed many of the Siri voices. As Susan says it was first a bit of a surprise, but “everything changes, right?” she says philosophically. As for Jon, his voice was replaced last year. He was disappointed, but yet again “technology constantly moves on.”
The whole interview is well worth your time. You can read it here.