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Siriously Susan

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By Alexandra McCray

If you’ve owned an iPhone 4S and beyond, then you are probably familiar with Siri, the digital personal assistant with a distinct female voice.  From serious questions such as “Where is the nearest gas station?” to inane questions, including “What is the best smartphone?” Siri attempts to provide answers.

Ask Siri, “Who is Susan Bennett?” and you’ll be provided with a list of online resources about voice-over artist Susan Bennett and others with the same name. However, you should rightly get the answer, “My original voice.”

Bennett began her career in voice over work by “accident” while working as a singer.  She was performing the background vocals for an advertising jingle when she landed her first voice over gig after being asked to fill in for the voice artist who never showed up.  “I thought, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ so I did the spot. I took some voice coaching from Atlanta actor Stewart Culpepper, got an agent and started to work,” explains Bennett.

After landing a few other voice jobs, Apple came calling, but Susan didn’t even realize it. “In this digital age, a lot of us voice people are auditioning all the time whether we know it or not. And so my voice was picked out of I don’t know how many voices,” said Bennett.

What most people don’t know is that Apple, in fact, is not responsible for creating the iconic personal assistant app who answers your questions, provides directions and recommends your next dinner choice. “Siri was invented, not by Apple, but by a Norwegian man named Dag Kittlaus, and Apple bought the app from him. I don’t know if he chose the voice or Apple did or what. I really don’t know. It remains a mystery.”

Once Bennett was selected, thus began a July of tedious four-hour days, five days a week in her Sandy Springs, Georgia, home recording studio to piece together the sounds for artificial intelligence.

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