Susan Bennett, voice of Siri, says: Don't forget your humanity and use your brain

Photo /AA_2018_b-fotke/vijesti/180408-siri_fah.jpg

Users of smartphones, voice assistants and other digital services and applications should not forget their humanity in the digital age and should use their brains in problem solving, Susan Bennett, the globally famous voice behind the digital personal assistant Siri, told Hina in an interview ahead of her visit to Croatia for the Communications Days in Rovinj on April 12-15. The Communications Days, the national festival of market communications, is organised by the Croatian Association of Communications Agencies (HURA) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Croatia. This year's event is expected to bring together more than 2,500 participants, including prominent marketing, advertising and communication experts such as Susan Bennett. Bennett is coming to Croatia with the support of the Croatian Tourist Board, whose director Kristjan Stanicic believes that her visit will contribute to the promotion and positioning of Croatia as an attractive and interesting destination and attract new visitors to the country.

"The strength of the Croatian tourism brand is growing steadily, and our promotional activities and campaigns are characterised by originality, innovation and creativity. In that regard, I am very pleased that Croatia will host Susan Bennett, the owner of the globally recognised voice of the digital assistant Siri," Stanicic said.

Bennett is an American voice-over artist who contributed her voice to Siri, the voice-activated digital personal assistant application in the iPhone smartphone and other Apple devices which can send text messages, make calls, check the calendar and perform many other tasks, including answering questions from the user. Siri is an Old Norse word meaning "a beautiful woman who leads you to victory".

Siri is available in more than 20 languages in 35 countries, but the Croatian language is not yet included in the application.

Croatia looks gorgeous

Bennett is coming to Croatia for the first time and says that she and her husband are looking forward to it. "I've spoken to several people who have been there, and they have nothing but wonderful things to say about Croatia," she told Hina.

"From what I can see on YouTube, Croatia is getting a lot of great publicity for tourism. According to famous travel advisor Rick Steves, it's one of the most interesting and beautiful destinations in Europe! I watched his video, and the entire country looked absolutely gorgeous, but especially Rovinj, where the festival will be. I'm excited to see the landscape, but I'm also interested in the historic areas, like Old Town," she added.

Siri accidentally

Bennett says it is a mystery to her how she became the original voice of Siri and who selected her. "In this digital age, we voice actors are often auditioning without knowing it, and that's what happened to me. My voice was selected, and I still don't know by whom, and I can only assume it was because my voice is pleasant enough, but also quite clear and articulate, which are characteristics that a digital assistant needs."

Bennett is also a singer and had a band with her husband for nearly 25 years. She has contributed her voice to many campaigns and successful films such as Mission Impossible 4 and The Lego Batman Movie.

"My only contribution to Siri was my voice. I had nothing to do with Siri's actual responses. The recordings I did that became the basic vocabulary for Siri consisted of thousands of phrases and sentences that were created just for sound, not for content. Then programmers and computers went into the recordings to extract sounds and reform them into Siri's responses," Bennett said, adding that she never worked for Apple, but had a contract with an IVR company now called Nuance.

Bennett recorded the sentences and phrases for hours, almost on a daily basis, over a month in the summer of 2005. She did not know what would happen with her recordings and it was only after Siri was introduced to the world in late 2011 that she found out that her voice was used in the application after a friend of hers recognised it.

Apart from hers, Siri has many other voices in other languages, but Bennett says that hers is the original Siri English voice worldwide. "There are many other Siri voices speaking in hundreds of other languages. I don't actually know many of these people: just Jon Briggs, who was the original Apple voice in England, called Daniel, and the Australian Siri, who was a woman named Karen Jacobsen."

Asked what she thought about artificial intelligence, Bennett said she felt a bit anxious about it. "If humans continue to get all of their problems solved and questions answered by Siri and other digital personas, I'm afraid we'll no longer use our brains! I think this is especially an issue for kids. Basically, they don't have to learn as much as they used to, or research anything, because they can just ask their smartphones," she warned. (Hina/FaH)