Even if you haven’t heard the name Susan Bennett before, there’s a good chance you’ve heard her voice.
Back in 2005, she recorded a number of voice samples for a company called ScanSoft. Later, that company merged with Nuance and those voice samples provided the foundation of Apple’s voice assistant: Siri.
Since she was in the country to promote her involvement in HP's new Escape Therapy advertising campaign, we spoke to Bennett about what it’s like to be Siri and how being the voice of one of the world’s most well-known voice assistants has changed the way she looks at technology. Specifically, we asked Bennett whether she’d ever use a non-Apple smart speaker like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Her answer was a defiant no.
“I will never have one,” she tells us.
“I hate the fact that our privacy has been totally and completely invaded by technology. There’s no such thing as privacy anymore.”
“My son and his girlfriend have Alexa and she's just sitting there gathering information and and you'll see it immediately, you know. For instance we we we try to check it out by talking about balloons in front of Alexa. So, you know, shortly thereafter I look on my Facebook page and there's a big advertisement for balloons.”
Asked what she’d change about Siri, Bennett admits that Apple’s voice assistant isn’t as accurate as she’d like.
Calling it a “major drawback”, Bennett says that “we get frustrated with Siri [without] thinking about the years and years of research and development that went into this incredible technology. We expect so much from her but so many times she can't understand us.”
“She doesn't understand me and I'm Siri.”
Asked how being Siri has changed her life and her career, Bennett is thankful.
“I'm very grateful to Siri because she gave me a whole new career later on in my life.”
At the time, Bennett and the other freelance voice actors involved in the ScanSoft project had no idea how their voice would eventually be used.
“We were just recording generic phone voices. We had no idea that a thing like Siri was going to show up like six years later. It was a total surprise. We didn’t know how to handle it because in the digital age and as a voice actor, anonymity can be very important.”
“All of a sudden you become this persona that millions of people are talking to everyday. Suddenly, your anonymity is in question and your voice acting career is going to be affected by that.”
“I have no way of measuring that impact and so I chose to take the high road and see it as a very positive thing. It’s been a lot of fun for me. I’ve done a lot of things that I would have never had the opportunity to do had I not been the voice of Siri.”