AWT News Update: April 14, 2017

Susan Bennett, the voice of Siri. Photo via Typeform

Susan Bennett, the voice of Siri. Photo via Typeform

We have a short AWT News Update for you on this Good Friday 2017:

  • Voice actress Susan Bennett, the voice of Siri, talks about her voice recording work for the AI that started back in 2005
  • Apple is cornering the market on high-quality trees

The text version of the podcast can be viewed below. To listen to the podcast here, click the play button on the player below. Note to Apple News readers: you’ll need to visit Apple World Today in order to listen to the podcast.

Text Version

This is Steve Sande for Apple World Today, and you’re listening to the AWT News Update for Good Friday, April 14th, 2017. We hope that you and your family have a wonderful Easter or Passover weekend.

As we’re on a holiday schedule today and this weekend, this will be a short update.

The voice actress who is the voice of Siri, Susan Bennett, did a recent interview with Typeform in which she talked about her voice work for Apple. Believe it or not, Bennett first started recording words and phrases in July of 2005 for a text-to-speech company named ScanSoft — that’s two years before the first iPhone shipped and six years before Siri appeared on the iPhone 4S. Bennett said that she spent a month in 2005 doing recordings, four hours a day, five days a week. In 2011 and 2012, she did updates for four months. To capture the sound combinations found in the English language, Bennett got to read nonsense phrases like “Malitia oi hallucinate, buckry ockra ooze”. Each phrase had to be read in the same pace, pitch and tone, which Bennett says was tedious. But the actress says that she doesn’t have a role in making Siri sound less robotic; instead, Bennett says “It all has to do with the programmers.” Originally, Bennett thought that she was helping with some sort of automated switchboard system.

A company the size of Apple can easily buy up all of the materials needed for a specific part or device, leaving other companies scrambling for their share. Apple’s latest attempt to corner the market appears to be in nothing less than trees. Yes, the Apple Park headquarters is going to take almost 9,000 trees, most of which will be fruit trees. Those trees are being sourced from local nurseries, leaving little or nothing for other major projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. For example, the Transbay Transit Center needs 469 trees for its 5.4 acre garden rooftop. The landscape architects working on the project had to travel north to Portland, Oregon to find the high quality specimens they needed, simply because Apple was grabbing all of the trees in the Bay Area. The trees were the dream of Steve Jobs, who wanted the new campus to resemble the California he remembered growing up. At the time, most of the area now overrun with tech company buildings was full of orchards. So Apple is not only planting a lot of drought-resistant trees at Apple Park, but also groves of apple, apricot, cherry, persimmon, and plum trees. The move into Apple Park will begin later this month, with the total process taking about six months to complete.

That’s all for today; I’ll be back Monday afternoon with another edition of the AWT News Update.