You may not know Susan Bennett by sight… but you know her voice. Bennett is the voice of none other than Siri, Apple’s voice activated, always-available personal assistant. Bennett has been a disembodied voice as a career for decades; if your work has any sort of PA system announcement, if you’ve ever flown Delta, if you’ve ever worked with e-learning software or booted up a GPS, you’ve probably heard Bennett’s voice. And how she became the voice of computers around the world is fascinating.
Bennett is a trained voice actor and stage performer who has a unique quality; she has no discernable accent, courtesy of living in Vermont and upstate New York growing up. As a result, she’s been a pursued voiceover artist for decades, usually for corporate work.
Siri first started in 2005. She recorded five hours a day, seven days a week for the entire month of July. She wasn’t recording words, however. Instead, Bennett was recording phenomes, the basic parts of speech, so that instead of having to string together whole words, the technology could string together the phenomes, thus changing with slang and the English language.
An Apple A Day
Bennett also had no idea she was the voice of Siri; the company that commissioned her didn’t roll out a product for years, partially thanks to being purchased by Apple. She wasn’t even informed of Siri’s debut until she heard her own voice coming out of the iPhone at an Apple keynote. Still, it’s a valuable tool for Bennett… and proof that even digital assistants need to come from somewhere.