She’s been in the hands of over 100 million people. Perhaps she’s slept on your nightstand. She may have even drunk-dialled your ex.
The Best Known Unknown:
Siri says-“Back in the day when we used to have telephone operators, I would just play with this phone… Is it destiny that I became a voice on hundreds and hundreds of phone systems? I don’t know, maybe it was meant to be.”
How Siri Erupted?
Leading the way with SRI (System Research Institute) was Douglas Engelbart, the godfather of user interface design. In 1968, he brought together the first computer mouse, keyboard, hypertext and video conferencing into “the mother of all demos”.
This motivated Xerox PARC to create the graphical user interface (GUI), which Steve Jobs mythically stole for the original Macintosh.
SRI later began with another project to create the first intelligent, digital assistant. And they spun off two companies – Nuances Communication and Siri (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface), Inc- that came together to give Siri brain and voice.
In 1987, Apple outlined the future of intelligent virtual assistants with the “Knowledge Navigator.” It organized your calendar, read your emails aloud, and hosted video conferencing. And it felt human-complete with a face, a voice, and personality.
But there was a huge gap between that dream and the technology of the time. Getting there required major leaps in voice recognition, natural language processing, and machine learning algorithms. And of course, just the right voice.
She is Susan Bennett, now 67, a voiceover artist and singer from Atlanta in the US. Even after all these years, some people are surprised that a human voice is behind the app. Yes ! it is a human she has a job, a gender, a name, Susan is not intuitive around machines and computers—which is one of life’s great ironies, that the original voice of Siri is a major nontechy, as said by herself in an interview.
Susan Bennett Net Worth is estimated $5.5 million.
Did Bennett speak to Siri?
When Bennett’s husband Rick Hinkle tried to record a conversation between her and Siri, they realised that her voice had been manipulated. He had to compress her voice to sound like Siri’s.
Voicing Siri, Such A Big Deal!
Susan Bennett didn’t know that her voice would appear on Apple’s iPhone. And hearing where those recordings ended up surprised her. CNN reports that Bennett eventually decided to reveal her identity as Siri’s voice. But she “had no idea this would be such a big deal,” in her own words. “To say that she got slammed with media requests would be an understatement,” CNN notes.
Bennett ended up hiring a publicist and landing one of the top voiceover agents in the country. CNN reported that Bennett’s dream was to voice a cartoon character. And if you take a look at her IMDB profile, you’ll notice that she’s gotten a few movie credits under her belt since recording Siri’s voice. Plus, she’s told her story many times throughout the years, including in a recent TED Talk. Some estimate that Susan Bennett’s net worth is now about $5.5 million.
Who Does Siri Say She Is?
Now that you know where Siri came from, you’re probably wondering: Can you ask the assistant herself for some information on her backstory? But she doesn’t seem to have any deep thoughts about her origin story. If you ask Siri a simple question, like “Who are you?” you won’t make much headway. Apple has programmed the virtual assistant with a few answers to this question:
The Media Frenzy
To say that she got slammed with media requests would be an understatement. By the time Bennett got back to Atlanta from her morning TV appearance on CNN’s “New Day,” between 400 and 500 e-mails were waiting for her. Most of them were requests for interviews. Meanwhile, her husband, Rick Hinkle, sat at home fielding phone calls as they poured in and asking, through the front door, for a local TV crew to leave.
“I thought I might get a couple e-mails. Maybe the (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) would want to do a little story,”
“This is craziness.”
The Recording Sessions Are Long Hours Of Painful Nonsense
The original vocabulary took the month of July: four hours a day, five days a week. And she read phrases and sentences that were created solely to get all the sound combinations in the language. It was extremely tedious work. A couple of years ago, this company tried to put her under contract for five more years for which she declined; asked for a lot of money to which they said no. Everything had to be read in the same pacing, the same timbre, the same tone. Which is challenging in its own way.
“You do get a sense of accomplishment from doing it well, but at that point, I felt I’d done enough.” -Susan
“I had really ambivalent feelings. I was flattered to be chosen to basically be the voice of Apple in North America, but having been chosen without my knowledge was strange. Especially since my voice was on millions and millions of devices.” -Susan Alice Bennett
Although Susan shot great fame, Siris wasn’t paid for the usage. All the siris over the world were paid for the original recording sessions, but we weren’t paid for being on all those phones which is a pretty big issue. I know there was one person who ended up getting fired from another job because he was working for a company that considered Apple a competitor. His voice was on the iPhone, and he LOST A JOB because of it.”
Susan’s not saying she should be driving a Lamborghini painted iPhone-white, but considering Apple has enough money to overthrow some countries, they probably could’ve afforded to cut her a decent paycheck.
So, the next time Siri reminds you about your proctology appointment, keep in mind that she’s doing that dirty work pro-bono!