When Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) released the iPhone 4s on Oct. 14, 2011, the voice-activated personal assistant known as Siri quickly became the defining feature of the (then) brand-new device. Siri was ubiquitous throughout the world, yet the identity of the person who provided the voice for the application has never been known, until now.
According to CNN, Susan Bennett, an Atlanta-based voiceover actor, is the voice of Siri in the United States. She has decades of experience in the business, her voice appearing in countless radio and TV voiceovers for companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, AT&T, Ford, Macy’s and more.
But it’s the voice recordings she provided for Apple that will likely cement her place in history. As CNN points out, Bennett wasn’t aware at the time that her voice would be used for the Siri application that would find its way to smartphones around the country.
So why is she revealing her identity now? According to CNN, a video posted on Verge last month called “How Siri Found Its Voice” led many to believe that the original voice of Siri in the U.S. belonged to voiceover actor Allison Duffy, who denied the rumor. Eventually Bennett decided to spill the beans, but not without some trepidation.
"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. And so, consequently, I was very conservative about it for a long time," Bennett 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."
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According to CNN, Bennett did the voice work that eventually wound up as Siri in July 2005. She recorded for four hours a day during the monthlong process.
"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. That's one of the reasons why Siri might sometimes sound like she has a bit of an attitude," Bennett said with a laugh. "Those sounds might have been recorded the last 15 minutes of those four hours."
After Apple released the iPhone 4s in October 2011, Bennett was contacted by several friends and colleagues who recognized her voice when using Siri.
"A colleague e-mailed me [about Siri] and said, 'Hey, we've been playing around with this new Apple phone. Isn't this you?'" she said.
As CNN points out, proving that Bennett is the voice of Siri isn’t easy. Apple has not commented. Neither has Nuance Communications, the company believed to be behind the technology responsible for Siri. So, CNN contacted Ed Primeau, an audio forensics expert with three decades of experience, to compare Siri’s voice with that of Bennett.
"I believe, and I've lived this for 30 years, no two voices are the same," Primeau said. "They are identical -- a 100% match."
Meanwhile, Bennett’s lawyer, Steve Sidman, also confirms Bennett’s story.
"I've engaged in substantial negotiations -- multiple, monthslong negotiations -- with parties along the economic food chain, so to speak, that involved her rendering services as the voice of Siri," he told CNN. "It's as simple as that."