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Voice actor behind Apple's Siri comes forward

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 
Georgia-based voice actor Susan Bennett has revealed in an interview that she is the original voice of Apple's voice-driven personal assistant in America.

Siri


With iOS 7 bringing a new voice to Siri two years after the interactive assistant's introduction alongside the iPhone 4S, longtime voice actor Susan Bennett has outed herself as Siri's original American voice in an interview with CNN. Bennett says she was prompted to come forward after a story that ran on The Verge last week gave some the mistaken impression that voiceover artist Allison Dufty, featured in an accompanying video, was the service's voice.

"I wasn't sure that I wanted that notoriety, and I also wasn't sure where I stood legally," 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."Susan Bennett, a voice actor since the 1970s, has verified that she is the voice behind Apple's personal assistant, Siri.

Bennett began her voiceover career in the 1970s as the advertising voice of "Tillie the All-Time Teller," the nation's first automatic teller machine. She has since provided audio for GPS systems, corporate phone trees, and is heard by thousands of travelers each day as the airport terminal voice for Delta Airlines.

She laid down the audio tracks that would eventually become Siri in July 2005 as part of a project for ScanSoft, formerly a large computer speech applications company that later merged with rival Nuance. Nuance confirmed earlier this year that the company is responsible for Siri's natural language processing capabilities.

A colleague first alerted Bennett that Siri may be based on her voice soon after Apple took the covers off of the service. After listening to the product video on Apple's website, Bennett says she had no doubt. "It's obviously me. It's my voice," she said.

Several individuals with knowledge of the deal vouched for Bennett's involvement, including the owner of the company she worked with on the project, Atlanta-based GM Voices. For further confirmation, CNN brought in an expert in forensic audio, who analyzed both Bennett's and Siri's voices and said the two "are identical -- a 100% match."

Two other Siri voice actors have previously been identified. British journalist Jon Briggs reportedly provided the voice behind Siri's United Kingdom version while Australian singer and actor Karen Jacobsen is believed to have played the same role in Australia.

post #2 of 47
In her CNN interview, she said she recorded the voices in 2005. Apple did not use Siri until 2010. Makes me think of what Apple has in store for the next few years...
post #3 of 47

It would have been epically cool if they could have gotten Majel Barrett to do the voice of Siri.

post #4 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

She laid down the audio tracks that would eventually become Siri in July 2005 as part of a project for ScanSoft, formerly a large computer speech applications company that later merged with rival Nuance. Nuance confirmed earlier this year that the company is responsible for Siri's natural language processing capabilities.

Fun fact: In an unusual twist Scansoft actually bought out Nuance, but chose to change the company name to that of the absorbed rival.
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post #5 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ursadorable View Post

It would have been epically cool if they could have gotten Majel Barrett to do the voice of Siri.

A rival service actually code-named their voice assistant "Majel" as recognition for the old Star Trek computer voice.
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post #6 of 47

Has anyone done the audio forensics on the Surface commercials, I wonder?

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post #7 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by PScooter63 View Post

Has anyone done the audio forensics on the Surface commercials, I wonder?

You'll even hear the Nuance-licensed "voice of Siri" in the Microsoft-based Ford Sync system, as well as millions of Garmin Nuvi's. It's not an Apple exclusive.

@ Suddenly Newton: I use Aussie Karen, the topic of the Verge article, as the TBT voice on my GPS. We had a discussion about her a couple years back on a GPS forum. She was pretty attractive too back in the day.
Edited by Gatorguy - 10/4/13 at 7:18am
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post #8 of 47
All it took was lies published by The Verge to get her to out herself...

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #9 of 47

She is an actress, not an actor.

 

Edit

 

Withdrawn comment, it is technically correct if someone wishes to describe a woman performer as an actor. Simply annoys me, same thing as when some US movies/TV Series have female officers called "Sir".


Edited by saarek - 10/4/13 at 7:12am
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post #10 of 47
... Ok? Glad to see what CNN considers news-worthy this week. Not like anything else is going on right?
post #11 of 47

Hmmm...so that must mean that the voice of the personal assistant Iris is no other than Ms. Ttenneb Nasus...right right?!

post #12 of 47

replying to the guy who said she recorded this for Apple in 2005:

 

She did NOT record if for Apple in 2005.  You obviously can't read.  She recorded it in 2005 for another company, and Apple gained the rights to use it in later years.

post #13 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cash907 View Post

... Ok? Glad to see what CNN considers news-worthy this week. Not like anything else is going on right?

 



No news is good news....
post #14 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by daphreev View Post

In her CNN interview, she said she recorded the voices in 2005. Apple did not use Siri until 2010. Makes me think of what Apple has in store for the next few years...

 

She did NOT record if for Apple in 2005.  You obviously can't read.  She recorded it in 2005 for another company, and Apple gained the rights to use it in later years.  So her voice in Siri has no relevance whatsoever to what Apple has in later years.  They will buy/borrow/steal  what they need when they need it, just like this.

post #15 of 47

@saarek

 

As you may have surmised, you really don't want to get involved in American politics, the sexual subset being no exception.  Absurdity is power.  Ignorance rules.  But most folks just brush it all off and get on with the shopping.

post #16 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChazzMatt View Post
 

 

She did NOT record if for Apple in 2005.  You obviously can't read.  She recorded it in 2005 for another company, and Apple gained the rights to use it in later years.  So her voice in Siri has no relevance whatsoever to what Apple has in later years.  They will buy/borrow/steal  what they need when they need it, just like this.

 

1) Chill out.

2) Regardless, she did it 5 years before they used it; seemed interesting to me.

3) You made an account to say that.

 

lol

post #17 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChazzMatt View Post
 

 

She did NOT record if for Apple in 2005.  You obviously can't read.  She recorded it in 2005 for another company, and Apple gained the rights to use it in later years.  So her voice in Siri has no relevance whatsoever to what Apple has in later years.  They will buy/borrow/steal  what they need when they need it, just like this.

 

Riiiiigght...............SECURITY!!! 

post #18 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by saarek View Post
 

She is an actress, not an actor.

 

Edit

 

Withdrawn comment, it is technically correct if someone wishes to describe a woman performer as an actor. Simply annoys me, same thing as when some US movies/TV Series have female officers called "Sir".

 

Just don't call Barbara Boxer "Ma'am"!

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post #19 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by daphreev View Post

In her CNN interview, she said she recorded the voices in 2005. Apple did not use Siri until 2010. Makes me think of what Apple has in store for the next few years...

 

To your point most people have no idea how long it takes to bring some product ideas to market especially when you are one of the first doing it. The track pad used on the laptops was in development at apple for over 5 yrs before it finally showed up in the first Powerbook.

post #20 of 47
If you take apple's "Alex" voice,which was around for a couple of years before Siri, and you raise the pitch, you get the Siri voice. And conversely lowering the pitch of Siri's voice gives you the Alex voice.
I don't think she is telling the truth. There is plenty of information about how the Alex voice came to be that is available by the way so the notion that all of this is very secretive is not accurate either.
post #21 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post
 

 

To your point most people have no idea how long it takes to bring some product ideas to market especially when you are one of the first doing it. The track pad used on the laptops was in development at apple for over 5 yrs before it finally showed up in the first Powerbook.

 

That was exactly the point!

post #22 of 47

I absolutely love the original Siri voice.

 

As an aside, one of my favorite BBT episodes had to do with Siri: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2181587/

post #23 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChazzMatt View Post
 

replying to the guy who said she recorded this for Apple in 2005:

 

She did NOT record if for Apple in 2005.  You obviously can't read.  She recorded it in 2005 for another company, and Apple gained the rights to use it in later years.

 

A bit harsh. Chill, Bro! Try counting 10 before you say something. Might help you with the "ladies," too.

post #24 of 47

Speaking of Siri, since upgrading to iOS 7 I am getting way to many errors like Can't connect to server, or it simply doesn't register anything at all and you have to try it several more times . Under iOS 6 it worked and understood around 90% of the the time but that has dropped to about 40% to 50% of the time now with iOS 7. It even stalls on extremely simple things like set timer.  Is anyone else that uses Siri frequently having the same issues?

 

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post #25 of 47
The new voices are more generic and not as distinctive.

I think Apple needs to do the processing to make their own voice. This can be done with any actor (or non-actor) who is willing to do the recordings of sufficient phonems to produce speech synthesis dataset... preferably one whom they have an exclusive deal with, like a current Apple employee.

The Verge lies? Of course they do. They're like jizzmodo.
post #26 of 47

Please Apple... locate Douglas Rain as the voice for Siri... so that we can enjoy The Most Classic and Classy computer voice of all time --  the HAL 9000 computer -- in our pockets from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and its sequel, 2010 (1984).

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Rain

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HAL_9000


Edited by a2gsg - 10/4/13 at 12:48pm
post #27 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ursadorable View Post
 

It would have been epically cool if they could have gotten Majel Barrett to do the voice of Siri.

 

She passed away in 2008. 

post #28 of 47

I was in a Delta terminal last month, and hearing the announcements I thought, "That sounds just like Siri!" Guess that explains it.

post #29 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jessi View Post

The new voices are more generic and not as distinctive.

I think Apple needs to do the processing to make their own voice. This can be done with any actor (or non-actor) who is willing to do the recordings of sufficient phonems to produce speech synthesis dataset... preferably one whom they have an exclusive deal with, like a current Apple employee.

The Verge lies? Of course they do. They're like jizzmodo.

 

The new voice in iOS7 in the U.S. sounds like it's the old voice, but presented faster, smoother and with less affectation, probably the result of better processing.      

 

But I also agree with some other postings that it would cool to have some choices including those of HAL9000 and Majel Barrett.   Personally, I wouldn't mind also having the voices of Bugs Bunny, Wolfman Jack, Boris Karloff, Mick Jagger, James Earl Jones (doing Vader), Lake Bell (who recently wrote, directed and starred in a movie about voice-over artists called "In a World...") or Sally Kellerman, among others.   They can sell them like ringtones.  Lots of money there.  

post #30 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwmac View Post
 

Speaking of Siri, since upgrading to iOS 7 I am getting way to many errors like Can't connect to server, or it simply doesn't register anything at all and you have to try it several more times . Under iOS 6 it worked and understood around 90% of the the time but that has dropped to about 40% to 50% of the time now with iOS 7. It even stalls on extremely simple things like set timer.  Is anyone else that uses Siri frequently having the same issues?

 

No problems.   I find it works far better than under iOS6.    My daughter's name is Kerin and under iOS6, it would always interpret that as Karen.   The iOS7 version gets it right.      

 

I also just asked it if I had any appointments for Monday.     Then I said, "what about Tuesday?"   I don't think it would have understood that under iOS6, but it did under iOS7.   

 

If it can't find the server, I would check your connectivity.    

post #31 of 47
As someone involved in the casting, recording and use of voice talent, I'm thinking she better have been paid a huge buyout fee in 2005, or be getting some ongoing usage fees (sounds like not), otherwise she was hosed.
post #32 of 47
Quote:
It would have been epically cool if they could have gotten Majel Barrett to do the voice of Siri.

 

No, I would say Fran Drescher! lol

Being a voice-over actor for things like this and cartoons/animations sounds like a good career - if your a success at it and not constantly unemployed or working as a waiter/waitress or something like that, to make ends meet of course.


Edited by 1983 - 10/4/13 at 10:21am
post #33 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

The new voice in iOS7 in the U.S. sounds like it's the old voice, but presented faster, smoother and with less affectation, probably the result of better processing.      

But I also agree with some other postings that it would cool to have some choices including those of HAL9000 and Majel Barrett.   Personally, I wouldn't mind also having the voices of Bugs Bunny, Wolfman Jack, Boris Karloff, Mick Jagger, James Earl Jones (doing Vader), Lake Bell (who recently wrote, directed and starred in a movie about voice-over artists called "In a World...") or Sally Kellerman, among others.   They can sell them like ringtones.  Lots of money there.  

Please, please no. You'd end up with something like these:
http://www.pigtones.com/

or these:
http://www.navtones.com/
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post #34 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post
 

 

Just don't call Barbara Boxer "Ma'am"!

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post #35 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by GordonComstock View Post

As someone involved in the casting, recording and use of voice talent, I'm thinking she better have been paid a huge buyout fee in 2005, or be getting some ongoing usage fees (sounds like not), otherwise she was hosed.

 

I also used to be involved with voice-over talent.   My bet is that she was hosed for use on the iPhone itself, but she might have been compensated quite well for the use of her voice in any Apple TV ads that featured Siri.     If she wasn't, she should have been, but it would have been harder to get away with that, especially if she is in AFTRA.  

post #36 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


Please, please no. You'd end up with something like these:
http://www.pigtones.com/

or these:
http://www.navtones.com/

 

Yes, but those are incredibly bad impersonators, badly recorded.  

post #37 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post

I also used to be involved with voice-over talent.   My bet is that she was hosed for use on the iPhone itself, but she might have been compensated quite well for the use of her voice in any Apple TV ads that featured Siri.     If she wasn't, she should have been, but it would have been harder to get away with that, especially if she is in AFTRA.  

I think I remember comments from other Nuance voice contributors that it was a contract job and there' no on-going payments or royalties. The only one making money from those voices after-the-fact is Nuance from licensing fees.

EDIT: Here's an old interview with Karen Jacobsen a.k.a. "Aussie Karen". She did her voice-work back in 2002, and still heard today on several million car navigation devices.
http://www.thatslife.com.au/Article/Real-Life/Real-Life-Stories/Meet-Aussie-Karen-the-voice-in-your-GPS
Edited by Gatorguy - 10/4/13 at 11:00am
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post #38 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by daphreev View Post

In her CNN interview, she said she recorded the voices in 2005. Apple did not use Siri until 2010. Makes me think of what Apple has in store for the next few years...

 

...and it didn't come out of beta until 2013. Makes me think of what Apple will release and won't get right in the new few years. ;)

 

-kpluck

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post #39 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by zoetmb View Post
 

I also used to be involved with voice-over talent.   My bet is that she was hosed for use on the iPhone itself, but she might have been compensated quite well for the use of her voice in any Apple TV ads that featured Siri.     If she wasn't, she should have been, but it would have been harder to get away with that, especially if she is in AFTRA.  

 

Interesting question: is it really her voice anymore? Given that a synthesis engine is concatenating phonemes that likely aren't actual recordings per se, is it still her? I wonder if the original contract gave away all rights to use in all media "known and unknown" (likely). Four hours a day for a month under the existing AFTRA contract wouldn't have been chump change, but it still wouldn't measure up to reasonable compensation for today's use, especially considering what SAG/AFTRA talent receive for a national TV/web/electronic media campaign the likes of which Apple runs.

post #40 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by GordonComstock View Post

Interesting question: is it really her voice anymore? Given that a synthesis engine is concatenating phonemes that likely aren't actual recordings per se, is it still her? I wonder if the original contract gave away all rights to use in all media "known and unknown" (likely). Four hours a day for a month under the existing AFTRA contract wouldn't have been chump change, but it still wouldn't measure up to reasonable compensation for today's use, especially considering what SAG/AFTRA talent receive for a national TV/web/electronic media campaign the likes of which Apple runs.

Even the voice behind Niko, lead character in Grand Theft Auto IV, doesn't get any residuals or royalties from it. He got a salary for his time and that's it. 'Course that didn't keep him from bitching about it after the fact.
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