Meet the real 'Siri'

Monday, October 8, 2012
Meet the real 'Siri'
Karen Jacobsen is in your iPhone as the voice of Siri and in your car as the GPS Girl

Allow me to introduce you to someone. Actually, you may not need an introduction — you know this woman — in fact you've probably spent a fair bit of time together.

You've had weekends away together, she's given you guidance and advice and helped you out of some sticky situations. She the one you trust to read your emails and text messages, and you might even rely on her to wake you up in the morning.

Your say: Blackberry or iPhone?

But it's not all sunshine and light in this relationship. I can almost guarantee you've yelled at her as well.

Her name is Karen Jacobsen, and if the name doesn't sound familiar, the voice definitely will. Meet the GPS Girl, or, "Siri".

Knows as the GPS Girl™, Karen's recordings are resident in 50 million cars around the world as the female voice of four major GPS brands, and the Australian voice of Siri, being carried around in more than 37 million iPhones worldwide.

As well as being in your car telling you where to go and answering your questions on the iPhone, the now New Yorker, originally from Mackay in Queensland, is the voice taking messages when your friends don't answer their Vodafone mobiles, and you may have even spent some time listening to her while on hold to Centrelink among other call centre services.

And yes, sometimes she gets recognised.

"It's the GPS voice that people are familiar with," she says.

"I have people turning around in the supermarket because they think I’m a friend, and then they apologise when they don't recognise me."

But the real apologies are laid on when they discover where they've heard Karen's familiar voice before.

"It's easy to get angry with your GPS and people are constantly apologising for yelling at me or calling me horrible names. People really have a relationship with their GPS," she says.

"I even met a woman who said to me 'I'm sorry I strangled you' the other day - she got her GPS tangled in a cable and it ended up getting stuck, she was so embarrassed!

"I just think it's funny."

After the shock wears off and the "I'm sorrys" are offloaded, then of course come the requests.

"I'm not quite yet sick of saying 'you have reached your destination' when people ask me to, and then they ask me things they would ask Siri."

Though Karen takes directions from a Tom-Tom from time to time, she is yet to join the iPhone revolution and employ her own voice's services as a digital assistant.

"It would be a bit weird," she says, giggling.

If Karen wasn't a voice over artist she'd be a performer.

"I was always going to be some kind of show girl, and I did spend some time singing professionally," she says.

"But these voiceover opportunities have opened up a whole lot of windows and taken me on a path I hadn't considered."

Inspired by her stint in voicing directions, Karen has been doing the rounds on the public speaking circuit giving "directions for life" and has recently released a self-help book entitled "The GPS Girl's Road Map for Your Future."

"I believe you can recalculate in life at any time, just like you can when you're driving a car," she says.

And she's picked up a few other practical life lessons on her journey - something we can all learn from.

Related: Seven reasons to smile

"Be kind to Siri, she's there to help," says the digital PA's voice.

And now that we've put a face to the vocals, perhaps you'll think twice before attempting to strangle the GPS as well.

Your say: Do you have a strong relationship with your GPS or Siri?

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