The mystique of Siri, Apple’s “personal assistant” for iOS, has been the mysterious female voice. Able to speak directions to your favorite pizza parlor as well as carry on witty banter with celebrities, finding the voice behind your iPhone has become the holy grail for love-struck geeks everywhere. Now comes a middle-aged Atlanta mom who claims she’s the original voice behind Siri, providing a peak behind the world of talking machines.
Susan Bennett, a mom from Sandy Springs, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta, never wanted the spotlight. Her voice has been used to give life to machines ranging from the an ATM to a voice announcing directions inside the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport. Now she is speaking out about her role as the most famous unknown voice heard by millions of people…
“It seemed like everyone was clamoring to find out who the real voice behind Siri is, so I thought, well, you know, what the heck? This is the time,” she told the CNN.
While neither Apple nor the company which later became Nuance won’t comment on Bennett’s claim, CNN interviewed lawyers and voice analysts who are confident she provided the first voice for Siri. The cable network talked to Bennett, who recounted her journey.
According to Bennett, in 2005 she made a series of voice recordings for Atlanta-based GM Voices, which had become the go-to firm for companies looking to bring to life everything from spitting out your bank balance over the phone or telling you that your call is important. GM Voices was hired by the software company ScanSoft. Turns out, ScanSoft later changed its name to Nuance.
It took nearly a decade later before Bennett revealed to CNN that she was the voice of Siri. Why the long wait? Although the UK and Australian versions of Siri had already come out, “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,” she said.
That all changed when The Verge claimed in September that voiceover personality Allison Dufty was Siri’s voice. Despite Dufty’s protests to the contrary, telling visitors to her website that she is “absolutely, positively NOT the voice of Siri,” the story fit the desired image. The belief that the voice of iPhone could only be a young, beautiful woman meshed with the fantasies of the largely male audience of tech.
But the damage was done and Bennett was forced to blow her cover. It seemed everyone knew she was Siri the moment the iPhone 4S appeared in 2011. Soon after a colleague emailed her, asking: “Isn’t this you?” Her 36-year-old son calls himself “Son of Siri” and joked that he’s had say “Stop, Mom” to Siri.
Steve Sidman, Bennett’s lawyer since 2012, said he’s had “months-long negotiations” with companies about using her “as the voice of Siri.” He would only describe the companies as “parties along the economic food chain.” GM Voices CEO Marcus Graham quickly confirmed to CNN Bennett is the original voice of Siri. “Most female voices are kind of thin, but she’s got a rich, full voice. Yes, she’s the voice of Siri.”
An audio expert with 30 years experience also compared Graham to Siri and told the news service “they are identical — a 100% match.”