Speaking for it­self

“Hey Siri, how do you like your new voice in iOS 11?”

Mac Format - - APPLE CORE -

Ap­ple rarely spills the beans on its in­ner work­ings, but has changed tack by pub­lish­ing a pa­per on how it’s made Siri sound more hu­man. The pa­per, with the im­pen­e­tra­ble ti­tle ‘Siri On-De­vice Deep Learn­ing-Guided Unit Se­lec­tion Text-to-Speech Sys­tem’, out­lines how Ap­ple chooses the voice ac­tors be­hind Siri, and how it chops and changes their voices to make Siri say just about any­thing.

First, the cho­sen voice for the dig­i­tal as­sis­tant must be one that is ‘pleas­ant and in­tel­li­gi­ble and fits the per­son­al­ity of Siri’. Once one has been found, Ap­ple records 10-20 hours of speech with the voice ac­tor. A va­ri­ety of read­ing ma­te­rial is used, from au­dio books and nav­i­ga­tion in­struc­tions to witty jokes, ac­cord­ing to the Siri team’s blog. That’s then spliced to­gether us­ing a num­ber of clever ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) tech­niques in or­der to cre­ate all of the chat­ter you hear from Siri.

For iOS 11, Ap­ple chose a new fe­male voice for its Amer­i­can English ac­cent, and made use of its own deep-learn­ing tech­nol­ogy to im­prove the tone and ca­dence of Siri’s voice. Ap­ple says the new voice per­formed far bet­ter in tests than its iOS 9 and iOS 10 equiv­a­lents.

Since De­cem­ber 2016, Ap­ple has been pub­lish­ing re­search on its AI ef­forts in an bid to tempt more AI ex­perts to join the com­pany.

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