Ever wondered how Cortana or Siri came to be? We have to admit, it is extremely convenient (and loads of fun) to converse with these voice assistants. The voices have to have come from somebody, but who?
Meet Jen Taylor, the voice actor behind Microsoft’s voice assistant Cortana. Cortana was made available to Microsoft mobile in 2014 when Microsoft launched their Windows Phone 8.1.
If the name Cortana sounds familiar it’s because Cortana is also the artificial intelligence companion for one of the best-selling military science fiction video game Halo of Bungie, a subsidiary of Microsoft Studios. Unlike Siri, whose identity was unknown for a while, people almost immediately recognized the voice behind Cortana, as Microsoft didn’t look further into finding the voice for their phone’s personal assistant; they tapped the talents of Jen Taylor.
Jen is active in their local theater but has also been a voice actress since the late 1990’s, mostly voicing for video game roles like Left for Dead as Zoey and in various Mario games as Princess Peach, Toad, and Toadette. Jen shares, “Voice acting is just like regular acting, but without the lights.” She started playing the role of Cortana in 2001 and has since been part of the game franchise.
You can watch an interview of Jen Taylor below:
The voice actor for Siri, however, was a secret for a long time. Kept unknown for many years, Susan Bennett finally revealed in an interview with CNN in 2013 about her identity.
Susan and Apple’s relationship all started with a text-to-speech project of Apple’s ScanSoft in 2005, recording various sentences, 4 hours a day for a whole month. Later on, these recordings were linked together to form various sentences and phrases to what we now know as Siri’s voice. Unlike Microsoft, Apple has not made it official that Susan is the voice of Siri, however, with CNN sponsored audio-forensic tests, it is confirmed that Susan Bennett is indeed 100% Siri.
This was not the first time Susan’s voice was used for a “machine.” Her first big break was with First National Bank of Atlanta as the voice Tillie the All-Time Teller, the first automated teller machine (ATM). She went on to voice the public address system of Delta Air Lines, various GPS navigation software and telephone system.
This seasoned voice actress of more than 40 years experience found it “creepy” the first time hearing her voice in something interactive, but she is now used to it and declares that she and Siri are friends.
You can watch her CNN interview below: