Imagine hearing Siri speaking out of an iPhone for the first time and realizing, "Hey, that's me!"
That's essentially what happened to voice actress Susan Bennett, who claims to be the original voice behind the U.S. version of the sassy and infuriatingly inconsistent robo-helper most famous for interpreting weather patterns for Zooey Deschanel. Now, Bennett's aural likeness is pre-programmed into millions of iPhones all over the country, although iOS 7 now offers different options for voices.
Bennett, who began her career as a voiceover artist in the 1970s, revealed to CNN that she original recorded vocalizations for what would eventually become Apple's iconic sidekick back in 2005. She claims she had no idea her voice would eventually land on iOS, until a friend emailed her shortly after the iPhone 4S was announced in October 2011.
The original voice recordings were reportedly produced for a small software company called ScanSoft, which had enlisted the services of GM Voices, a talent agency of sorts responsible for producing the automated recordings you hear on things like phone menus or over loudspeakers. ScanSoft merged with a company called Nuance in 2005, which Apple reportedly tapped to run Siri's servers.
For four hours a day, every day, in July 2005, Bennett holed up in her home recording booth. Hour after hour, she read nonsensical phrases and sentences so that the "übergeeks" — as she affectionately calls them; they leave her awestruck — could work their magic by pulling out vowels, consonants, syllables, and diphthongs, and playing with her pitch and speed. [CNN]
"There are some people who just can read hour upon hour upon hour, and it's not a problem. For me, I get extremely bored," Bennett told CNN. "That's one of the reasons why Siri might sometimes sound like she has a bit of an attitude."
Apple won't confirm that Bennett is the voice behind Siri, but a voice forensics expert tells CNN that he is "100 percent" certain the two are the same. Back in September, The Verge misidentified a different woman named Allison Duffy as the original voiceover actress behind Siri. Duffy later rebuffed the claim on her blog.