Meet Siri

My nieces have an iPhone and they delight in asking the digital assistant Siri questions.  But maybe the key question is “Who is Siri?”  (Have you ever asked her?)

The March 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine discusses smartphones, and in a sidebar on page 50 they expose “The Real Voice Behind Siri”.

In 2005, a company called Nuance Communications hired Susan Bennett, a professional voice-over artist, for an unusual job — they wanted to record every sound in the English language.  Not only that, the sounds had to be identically delivered — in the same pitch, same tone, and with the same pacing.  Susan worked four hours a day, five days a week, reading nonsense phrases.  Nuance then used a process known as concatenation to digitally stitch the sounds together to form words.  Apple purchased the results from Nuance.

The job was so demanding that Susan turned down Nuance’s offer of more work.  She didn’t realize what the end product was until she received a call from a fellow voice-over artist in 2011.  He had just gotten a new iPhone and recognized her voice.

Unfortunately, Susan was not entitled to any further compensation because of the deal with Apple.  But there was no nondisclosure agreement either, so this has led to a side career as a public speaker.  And it sounds like she’s having a lot of fun.  The article quotes her as saying “Everyone I meet says to me, ‘I’m so sorry. I curse at you all the time’.  And I say, ‘I know. And I know where you live.’ ”


There’s also an interesting article about Susan on the CNN website (  The photo came from that website.  She tells the story herself on YouTube (


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