She sounds a little robotic. Not sure if this is a real woman. It probably is, however, the man for the UK voice has broken his silence.
The voice behind Siri breaks his silence
Jon Briggs only discovered he was the voice of Apple's Siri in the UK when he saw it on television. He speaks openly for the first time.
Jon Briggs, the voice of Siri
By Matt Warman, Consumer Technology Editor
7:00AM GMT 10 Nov 2011
Apple has been keeping a secret from iPhone users: the company may call its new “humble personal assistant” Siri, but the real name of the UK version is Daniel. And Daniel’s real name is Jon Briggs.
The story of Siri begins long before the Apple CEO, Tim Cook, announced it last month.
The “assistant” allows users to talk to the latest iPhone, the 4S, just as they would a person: “Please send a message to…”; “Do I need an umbrella today?”; “Will you marry me?” In the UK, the voice that tells you the weather, or says, “We don’t even know each other that well,” was actually recorded six years ago.
Jon Briggs, a former technology journalist who “fell into” voice-over work, recorded “Daniel” for Scansoft, which subsequently merged with Nuance, the company that works with Apple on Siri.
The notoriously secretive Apple has, it should be said, asked Briggs not to talk about Siri – “We’re not about one person,” they told him – but, since Briggs pointed out that he had never had a contract with them, the company has not been back in touch.
“I did a set of recordings with Scansoft five or six years ago, for text-to-speech services,” says Briggs. “Five thousand sentences over three weeks, spoken in a very particular way and only reading flat and even. Then they go away and take all the phonics apart, because I have to be able to read anything you want, even if I’ve never actually recorded all those words.”
The result, Briggs says is “as close to human speech as anything that’s out there. It gets everything right, more or less, apart from the inflection.”
The voice, which is the only one available for a male in UK English, has been used by people as diverse as the British Computer Association for the Blind and London’s King’s Cross station. “You’re not allowed to license the voice to make money,” says Briggs. “So Apple’s Siri is part of the service once you’ve bought the phone.”
The first he knew of his role with Apple was when he saw a demonstration on television. Is he bitter? “I got paid a decent sum by Scansoft,” he says. “I love Apple’s products and I think Siri is a game-changer.”
He points out that Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt has already called it “a threat” in a letter to America’s Congress. “This is a really clever idea. I’m amused to be part of the fabric of things,” he says.
Subsequently, he has been the voice of Radio 2 and The Weakest Link, and worked at countless conferences. He’s the voice of satnav for Garmin, TomTom, Jaguar, Land Rover, Audi and Porsche. He says the creation of packages such as Daniel, and the work done by phonics engineers to allow them to speak, “suddenly enfranchises a whole group of people who, for whatever reason, can’t type”.
Siri takes into the mass market what the technology of Nuance and Scansoft has been doing for years. The nature of that technology means Briggs has no need to record more Daniel.
Could Apple replace Siri’s voice? “Of course,” he says. “But voice defines how you think about somebody; age, sex, educational background. So changing Daniel would be more than about technology.”