Searching for Siri

Siri image displayed when you ask Siri a question

How can I help you?

Mistaken identity, forensic investigation and a CNN scoop—it sounds like the hunt for a criminal mastermind.

It was, in fact, the search to uncover the original voice of Apple’s virtual assistant, Siri. And as I posted my Siri-esque voice adventure last week, why not get to the bottom of who Siri really is? It appears this is quite the story…

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Asking Siri what she is wearing

Love her or hate her, I’m willing to bet at some point you’ve:

a. left your finger on the home button of your iPhone for too long and that oh too familiar beep has busted you texting in a meeting

b. spent way too much time asking outrageous questions such as what is the meaning of life? Are you single? What are you wearing?

c. used colourful language at her when she has questioned your ability to speak by replying: ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t get that’

d. done all of the above.

But it was the question ‘who are you Siri?’ that remained unanswered for two years.

A chance encounter by UK CNN reporter Jessica Ravitz revealed Siri’s true identity as voice actor Susan Bennett. She was interviewing Susan for a special project on the world’s busiest airport (Susan is the voice of Delta terminals), when, for reasons she can’t explain, she blurted out ‘hey are you Siri?’

After initially swearing her to secrecy, Susan later agreed to an interview, wanting to set the record straight. An article on synthesised speech led some to believe voice talent Allison Dufty was the virtual assistant. After Allison denied the claim, the search intensified—everyone wanted to meet Siri—so Susan decided to come forward.

Susan’s voice acting career began in the 1970s. Today in the US she can be heard on GPS systems, ATMs and on-hold messages. She also features on commercials for McDonalds, Ford, Coca-Cola and Fisher-Price.

She recorded what would eventually become the voice of Siri back in 2005—for four hours a day, every day throughout July (yikes!)—and admitted she had no idea where the recordings would end up.

‘The first time I actually heard my voice as Siri was when my friend emailed me and said, “Isn’t this you?”‘ Susan told CNN, ‘I went to the Apple site and that’s where I heard the voice. I went ‘Oh! Hmm. That is me.”‘

Susan also explained why Siri can have a bit of an attitude:

‘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. 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.’

But Susan’s word was not enough—enter CNN’s audio-forensic expert. After studying both voices, it was confirmed 100 per cent that Susan and Siri are one and the same.

See for yourself…

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