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  • Writer's pictureKatie Aitken

Introducing 3 Female Voices You Live With : Your Constant AI Companions

Susan Bennett - Siri (Apple)

You will know Siri as the virtual assistant available across Apple’s range of products. While Siri has been voiced by various men and women over the years, featuring different accents to suit different markets, the original American voice was Susan Bennett.

While Siri was introduced on 4th Oct 2011, Bennett in fact recorded the text-to-speech audio back in 2005. If you’ve ever wondered how long it took to record Siri’s lines, Bennett has mentioned in interviews that she spent 4 hours a day, 5 days a week for a month to get everything done. The hint of sass that you may have noticed in some or Siri’s responses it down to the long recordings, reading nonsense phrases. This process in called concatenation and is widely used for AI responses. However, the reason that the original Siri is somewhat iconic is because it was the first time this process was able to create a human sounding result. As a result, Bennett has a role that will be remembered in the history of mobile phone technology

Strangely, Bennett did not know in advance that her voice was going to be used for Siri (which as a voice over artist, throws up all sorts of questions about usage agreements, etc!) In fact, the way she found out was when a fellow VO friend was playing around with their new iPhone and recognised her voice, messaging Bennett to enquire “Isn’t this you?” Following the discovery that she was indeed the voice of Siri, Bennett took her time in revealing her identity publicly, unsure of the attention it would bring with it. She commented,

“I really had to weigh the importance of it for me personally. I wasn’t sure I wanted the 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 has been a voice over artist since the 1970’s and is also recognised as the voice of Delta Airlines and sang the jingle for First National Bank, helping to establish the first successful ATM in America!

Karen Jacobsen - GPS

Jacobsen is another Siri contributor, having provided the Australian English voice. Not only that, she is also known as ‘the GPS girl’ with her voice being used in over 400 million smartphone and GPS devices, including TomTom, Navman, Garmin and Mio.

Once again, her GPS recordings were shrouded in secrecy only to be unveiled and realised years later when a friend recognised her voice. Jacobsen won the job after auditioning for it in New York City in 2002. In her book, The GPS Girl’s Road Map For Your Future, she states that it took almost 50 hours to record the entire script for the GPS system.

Jacobsen has made a name for herself as a singer/songwriter, releasing 9 studio albums, performer, public speaker and author of 2 books in addition to her widely recognisable achievements as a voice over artist.

Jen Taylor - Cortana (Microsoft)

If you recognised the name Cortana from the Halo video games, then you are on the right lines, as Windows decided to bring her character to their mobile operating system in 2014, using the same voice artist, Jen Taylor. Much like Cortana’s more established predecessors, her purpose is to act as a virtual personal assistant, playing a similar role to that in the video games she originated from. She is more life-like and programmed to have a personality, giving the occasional witty response.

Group Program Manager of Windows Phone, Marcus Ash, explained how Taylor played an important role in how the company would introduce and evolve the speech technology. Windows celebrated the connection to Halo video games and revelled in having the AI character brought into their product. This was in stark contrast to Susan Bennett’s Siri, which was kept a secret for years as people immediately knew who the voice of Cortana was.

Jen Taylor has been a voice actress since the late 1990’s, mainly for video games. Aside from Cortana in the Halo series, she is also known for playing Zoey in Left for Dead and Princess Peach, Toad and Toadette in Mario games.

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