The original voice of Siri Susan Bennett.  Image: YouTube
The original voice of Siri Susan Bennett. Image: YouTube

Voice of Siri in cheeky new campaign targeting Apple

IF you're frustrated that Siri doesn't understand you, don't worry she doesn't even understand her original 'maker's voice at times.

Susan Bennett, the original voice of Siri, is in Australia featuring in a cheeky new video campaign spruiking the benefits of HP computers over Apple's products.

Not that we should ask Siri for tech advice, with Bennett describing that as like "asking a vegan for a good barbecue recipe". "I'm kind of a tech moron,' she admits.

Her son, who describes himself as 'the son of Siri', reckons his mum used about 8% of the technology of her iPhone.

Bennett's story about how she became the voice of Siri is fascinating.

ScanSoft, a software company, was looking for a voice for a new project. It reached out to GM Voices which was known for recording voices for automated voice technologies.

The Atlanta-based Bennett, who has toured Australia as a back-up singer for Roy Orbison, had already done lots of work with GM Voices - including as the voice of her son's bank.

"I'm sorry Cameron, your account is overdrawn,'' Bennett quips.

In June 2005, she signed a contract offering her voice for recordings that would be use in a database to construct speech.

Bennett says the original voice of Siri sounds like a woman with 'attitude' which she explains came often at the end of her long daily recordings.

It wasn't until years later, in October 2011, when Apple released its iPhone 4S, that Bennett was told by others that she was the 'voice of Apple'. She didn't even have the phone at the time.

Bennett didn't 'come out' as Siri for two years, partly after being urged on by her son to have her place in tech history acknowledged.

Fast forward to 2019 and HP has been smart enough to seek out the original voice of Siri and use it on a new campaign taking a dig at the things Mac users most hate about their devices.

Given Apple never struck a deal with Bennett she's free to take a poke at the tech giant. Esc Therapy is a series of funny videos demonstrating the 'the real HP difference"

It highlights the frustration of users 'ignored' by Mac's product designers over simple functions like a 'touch screen', who have also been forced to buy expensive dongles to simply connect.

The series produced by Aussie PR giant Edelman features Dave - a long time Mac lover - breaking up with his first love, his Macbook (voiced by Bennett).

After years of slowly dwindling happiness, he's decided to let her down gently in a safe setting - a couple's counselling session.

Bennett makes it clear she has no beef to grind with Apple but believes a little rivalry is good for business. "In my mind, competition is a good thing."

While she never made millions as the voice of Siri, she said it had opened up great opportunities for her to speak at conferences and share the lighter side of being the voice everyone knows.

She says while people don't stop her in the street after hearing her voice, there are plenty of people who know she's
Siri - including trick or treaters who love to visit Siri on Halloween.

But Bennett says didn't use Apple's voice assistant a lot herself. "I really did not talk to her very much.
"I only talk to her to ask her directions.''

And yes, there are times Siri doesn't understand her - a problem many Aussies have found over the years.

"We do get frustrated with Siri.

"She doesn't understand me as well and I'm Siri!"

Bennett says the new voice of Siri is 'definitely a millennial' who has a lot less attitude than the original.

While others might have lamented missing out on big bucks if she had a direct deal with Apple as a the voice of Siri, Bennett says she tends to look for the positives in life.

"It definitely has been positive,'' she says.