Siri, the Apple Inc. personal assistant application that gained mass popularity after the release of the iOS software and the iPhone 4S, is not only an intelligent technological advance but also a captivating voice.  Users simply hold the home button of their Apple device, ask Siri a question, and she answers in her robotic tone.  The voice is a form of artificial intelligence; the machinery of the Apple product is programmed to recognize human vocal cues and respond using synthesized language.  As a consequence, despite the context of the user’s question, the sound produced by Siri is often very repetitive.  Due to the fact that Siri is essentially a robot, her voice lacks emotional, rhythmic, and other culturally acquired sound characteristics prevalent in the human voice.   This exhibit focuses on the analysis of a captivating voice that elicits a response from listeners because it deviates from the norm of a particular cultural understanding.  Thus, Siri becomes intriguing vocally through her lack of emotion, lack understanding of social contexts, and lack of some paralinguistic qualities that cause her voice to differ from the norm of the human voice. 


The following link provides an understanding visually of how Siri is integrated with Apple Products.


            More specifically, Siri’s audible vocal qualities that cause her sound to become captivating and differ from the norm establish her inhuman nature; the fact that her voice is robotic intrigues users.  When the software was initially released, Siri was vastly popular amongst iPhone owners because Apple’s products were so widespread that suddenly, a synthesized voice became a common feature in the user’s daily life.  Siri has been featured giving directions to people through a GPS in television shows and movies.  Autistic children have been found to develop a particular interest in her voice because she never grows frustrated from answering their questions, never stops being a personal assistant, and does not exhibit the human emotions that may instigate their distress or confusion.  As competing companies strive to market their products against those of Apple, they have realized that they too must integrate an electronic vocal assistant with their technology.  The concept of an artificially intelligent assistant that understands audible input from a human user, responds using synthesized sounds, and provides relevant information is thus a relevant topic. 

Siri is not just alluring because she is a convenient piece of technology; she exhibits certain unusual qualities that develop her robot voice.  The following five examples feature Siri responding to human questions.  In each instance, different vocal characteristics persist that develop her sound.  To summarize, Siri refuses to respond to a question about her personal music preferences because she is not human.  Her voice is unable to express musicality and rhythm when she repeats the lyrics to a popular song.  She calmly provides directions to users without frustration.  As Siri speaks, certain electronic noises ornament her words and make it clear that the software is processing inputted data.  Lengthy pauses occur when the user speaks to Siri and she is unable to immediately process her answer.  Therefore, each example provides insight into how Siri lacks emotion, lacks an understanding of social contexts, and lacks paralinguistic features.  The differences between Siri’s voice and a human voice cause her to become captivating.


By Katherine Livingston