Who Is Siri? How Did She End up on the iPhone? And Who Does Siri Say She Is?
People love talking to Siri, asking her fun questions, and calling on the virtual assistant for help with tasks on iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Though Siri doesn’t talk like a person — at all — but many find her voice soothing and her presence oddly reassuring. (Even if she’s not always helpful.) But if you’re like most people who talk to Siri on an iPhone or another Apple device, you probably have a few questions about the assistant. Who is Siri? How did she end up on the iPhone? And what does Siri think of all this?
Read on to find out the answers. As it turns out, Siri herself stays pretty tight-lipped about her origin story.
Who is Siri?
Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Who is Siri?” Then you’re probably thinking about the iconic Siri voice. CNN reported in 2013 that a voiceover actor named Susan Bennett laid down recordings that eventually became the voice of Siri. But at the time, Bennett “had no idea she’d someday be speaking to more than 100 million people through a not-yet-invented phone.”
She started the process in 2005, after signing a contract with ScanSoft to create recordings for a database that would be used to construct speech. In July of 2005, Bennett spent four hours each day in her home recording booth. She read nonsensical phrases and sentences, which ScanSoft broke down into vowels, consonants, syllables, and diphthongs. Next, ScanSoft used them to build words, sentences, and paragraphs — all of which iPhone users would later hear when they talked to Siri.
What happened to Bennett after Siri’s debut?
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.
How did Siri land on the iPhone?
The story of how Siri ended up on your iPhone began at SRI International in 2003. SRI founded a team tasked with putting “intelligence into the smartphone so that users could ask it by text or voice to perform tasks, such as scheduling a call among multiple parties, placing a call, or ordering groceries.” The team zeroed in on the concept of voice-driven software that could understand your question, access the information you needed, and deliver an answer.
The toughest part of the project? Getting the software to analyze words and identify concepts so it could understand the user’s intent. Siri became a separate venture in 2007. And after years of work, the team launched a Siri app in 2010. The app made it into the top 50 iOS app. And it attracted the attention of Steve Jobs, who soon acquired the company (reportedly for $200 million). Siri as we know her today debuted on the iPhone 4s. The assistant had previously only offered written responses, but the version that Apple integrated into iOS had a voice — the iconic Siri voice.
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:
- “I’m Siri, your virtual assistant.”
- “I’m Siri, here to help.”
- “I’m just a humble virtual assistant.”
- “I’m Siri, but I don’t like talking about myself.”
- “I’m Siri. But enough about me, how can I help you?”
Similarly, if you ask Siri where she came from, she’ll typically answer:
- “I, Siri, was designed by Apple in California.”
- “Like it says on the box, I was designed by Apple in California.”
Read more: Why Apple Really Slows Down Older iPhones
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