Hey Siri, who are you?
The original voice behind Siri, the famous virtual assistant on Apple Inc AAPL devices, had no idea that her voice would be used for something that billions of people hear on a daily basis.
Susan Bennett, a voice actor based in Atlanta, had an impromptu recording session in July 2005 for an IVR (interactive voice response) company called ScanSoft, which later became Nuance, where she had to read nonsensical sentences like “cow hoist in the tug hut today,” and “say shift fresh issue today.”
Sounds weird, right? Apparently, it was Apple trying to get all the sound combinations in the English language to produce the virtual assistant, she told Business Insider.
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Six years later, in 2011, a friend of hers sent her a video demonstrating the new iPhone’s voice assistant, and Bennett immediately recognized her own voice.
Despite being paid for her work with ScanSoft, Bennett said she never received compensation or recognition from Apple.
Bennett’s experience was not unique; two other voice actors, Karen Jacobsen (Australian Siri) and John Briggs (British Siri), had similar stories.
Like Bennett, they recorded lines for an IVR company without knowing what they would be used for, only to discover that their voices were purchased by Apple and used for Siri.
The fact that they were not compensated by Apple was particularly unusual, Bennet said to Insider, since this meant they did not have to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Bennett and her fellow voice actors decided to promote themselves, with Bennet being featured in a TEDx Talk, among other places.
Bennett said she has enjoyed being Siri and the opportunities that came with it, but also acknowledges the downside.
She said it is impossible to know how much work she might have lost as a result of being associated with the virtual assistant.
Yet, she is still a voice actor and can be heard in a variety of commercials as well as the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s gate announcements for Delta Airlines, Inc DAL.
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Photo: TEDxFurmanU on flickr