October 4, 2013
Voice Actor Claims She Is The Voice Behind Apple’s Siri
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
An Atlanta woman is claiming she is the voice behind Siri, Apple’s intelligent (and often sarcastic) digital assistant. Susan Bennett has been working as a voice actor since the 70s and says she recorded the voices for Siri in 2005, six years before Apple started shipping iPhones with the software installed.A story posted by The Verge last month about machine voices left many assuming a woman named Allison Duffy was the human behind the robot.
In an interview with CNN, Bennett said she never cared to be publicly known as the voice of Siri, but the attention raised by The Verge story made her consider coming forward.
Apple has yet to confirm Bennett’s story, but the CNN story released today claims she is the actual talent behind the voice. The news organization even brought in an audio-forensics expert to verify her story.
"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,” said Bennett in her interview with CNN's Jessica Ravitz.
“And so, consequently, I was very conservative about it for a long time. 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," she explained.
In 2005 software firm ScanSoft contracted GM Voices to find a voice for a project. Bennett had done several projects with GM Voices before and was chosen for the job. The voice actor recorded Siri’s voice for four hours a day for the entire month of July. She says she never knew what her voice would be used for, but says she assumed she’d be appearing in a corporation’s phone system. When she finished her work, she collected her paycheck and moved on to the next project. A few months after she recorded the voices ScanSoft changed its name to Nuance and subsequently sold Siri to Apple shortly after arriving on the App Store.
It wasn’t until the iPhone 4S was released on October 4, 2011 that Bennett got word that her voice was behind Siri. She didn’t buy a 4S on opening day, but people who knew her recognized her voice right away.
"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 the Apple website to watch the promo material and said she instantly knew it was her.
Both Apple and Nuance have refused to comment on the story, but those who have worked with Bennett for years say they have no doubt she’s the voice of Siri. CNN’s hired audio-forensics expert also believes Bennett is telling the truth. After analyzing her voice and Siri’s voice, he says the voices are “identical.”
"I believe, and I've lived this for 30 years, no two voices are the same,” said Ed Primeau. "They are identical -- a 100 percent match."
As for why Siri sometimes sounds snide or snippy, Bennett says it’s simply the product of recording hours on end for a month.
"There are some people that just can read hour upon hour upon hour, and it's not a problem. For me, I get extremely bored ... So I just take breaks,” she said.
“That's one of the reasons why Siri might sometimes sound like she has a bit of an attitude. Those sounds might have been recorded the last 15 minutes of those four hours," she concluded.