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Siri speaks… in the flesh

The man behind the Siri personal assistant has spoken about how he was picked, and how Apple didn't want him going public.

Ask Siri what it is and it'll say a humble personal assistant. Ask Jon Briggs, the man who lent his voice to the service, and he'll say it's a "game changer," reports The Telegraph.

Briggs, a former technology journalist who fell into voice work, has spoken for the first time about hearing his voice on the iPhone 4S. He recorded for Scansoft, which merged with Nuance, the company Apple works with on Siri. And the first he knew about his dulcet tones being part of the new iPhone was hearing them on an advert.

"I did a set of recording with Scansoft five or six years ago, for text-to-speech services," he said. "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 these words."

It's "as close to human speech as anything that's out there," Briggs says. "It gets everything right, more or less, apart from the inflection."

Apple has asked Briggs not to talk about Siri, reportedly saying "We're not about one person," but seeing as he never signed a contract with the company, it didn't have any say over the matter.

If the voice sounds familiar, you may well have heard it elsewhere. It's used at the British Computer Association for the Blind and King's Cross station in London, and Briggs has also lent his vocal skills to The Weakest Link, and satnavs by TomTom, Jaguar and Garmin.

We recently discovered that Siri is even more clever than we initially thought -- it detects how close you are so you don't have to press the screen to activate it. Very smart indeed. Though at the moment it can't look up local services in the UK due to Apple not signing with content providers. This should be sorted next year.

What do you make of Siri? Answers below or on our Facebook page, in the flattest tones possible, please.

Image credit: The Telegraph.