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Actress says credit for Siri's personality belongs to Apple programmers, not voice work

The attitude displayed by Apple's Siri assistant can really be attributed to programmers, not voice work, according to the actress responsible for Siri's U.S. female voice, Susan Bennett.




"We recorded hundreds of phrases and sentences that were created to get all the sound combinations in the English language," Bennett explained in a Typeform interview. "Now, the English language has over a million words, so you can imagine how long this took. The initial recordings took a month in 2005, four hours a day, five days a week, then I did updates for four months in 2011/12."

To get the necessary sounds, Bennett was made to say various nonsense phrases, like "Malitia oi hallucinate, buckry ockra ooze." Adding extra challenge, she had to use the same pace, pitch, and tone for every line, something Bennett noted was also very tedious.

Although she credits the use of her voice for making Siri sound less robotic, Bennett remarked that the various actors Apple uses don't have a role in what Siri says.

"It all has to do with the programmers," she commented.

Siri is currently available in 21 languages, a number of which have multiple actors for different genders, dialects, and/or accents. English alone has nine different dialects, and even people choosing U.S. English can pick from male or female voices in three different accents —American, Australian, or British.

Bennett wasn't originally aware she was going to be Siri, thinking instead she was helping with a switchboard system. Indeed her main recording sessions took place before the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, and Siri originally debuted as a third-party app —Apple would only buy Siri's developer later, and integrate the technology into iOS in time for the iPhone 4S in 2011.

The assistant is expected to get various enhancements for this year's "iOS 11," such as deeper integration with iMessage and iCloud.