Apple tells Siri's voice artist to 'keep quiet'

Summary:Apple reportedly spoke to Siri's UK voice-over artist, who didn't even know he was, and asked him to 'keep quiet' about its secrets.

Apple is known for its secrecy. None more so than Siri, the voice-activated intelligent assistant, seen to many as a deal-breaker for those who decided to upgrade to the iPhone 4S.

Siri's UK voice is known as 'Daniel', but Daniel's real name happens to be Jon Briggs, a former journalist who 'fell' into voice-over work.

But the tale begins when his voice-over work with a company called Scansoft, subsequently merged with Nuance -- the company that Apple worked with to provide make Siri vocal.

Apple officials told Briggs not to discuss Siri, shortly after the iPhone 4S launch, noting that the company is "not about one person". But claiming that his voice-over work holds no contractual obligation to Apple, the company has since not been back in touch with him.

Source: Gizmodo)

Speaking to the Telegraph, Briggs said:

"I did a set of recordings with Scansoft five or six years ago, for text-to-speech services. 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 was "as close to human speech" than anything else that is out there.

He first discovered that Apple used his voice in the Siri assistant when he saw a demo of the phone on television. Stating that he not only was well paid for the job and thinks Siri could be a "game-changer", he does not feel bitter about the secrecy deal.

But Apple did not want Briggs to talk about the process behind the voice-over work -- though nevertheless recorded at a time when Siri was probably not even conceived of.

Many of those in the UK will know the voice from The Weakest Link, which subsequently moved to the United States after many successful series'. His flat, semi-monotone voice which is devoid of most inflections went on to become Siri's only voice for UK markets.

As Briggs explained: "You're not allowed to license the voice to make money", the same voice used by many, including the British Computer Association for the Blind, and London's King's Cross railway station's tannoy voice, adding: "So Apple's Siri is part of the service once you've bought the phone".

No word on why Siri doesn't understand Scottish, though. The Scots will just have to wait their turn.

Related:

Topics: Telcos, Apple

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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