The new Siri assistant app is a virtual personal assistant that can do things you ask, by talking to it like you would a person. Siri talks back to you, allowing you to get confirmation, have your text messages read to you and tell you that you already have a meeting at that time.
Siri currently uses a female voice, that sounds similar to the OS X Text To Speech voices that are a part of Mac computers. You can hear one of the voices, called Alex, on Apple’s accessibility page. OS X users can choose from three male and three female voices. The Siri promotional video below seems to do better with names than the Text to Speech engine in OS X Lion and talks smoother.
Will we be able to choose our Siri voice? Right now, Siri is in beta and it appears that you can only have a female voice talk with you. Peter Kafka thinks this is because a male voice would sound too much like Hal 9000, but Apple has likely picked one voice in order to get things out the door.
Early versions of Apple’s Text-to-Speech software, called Macintalk had few voice options, but have grown to support multiple voices in over 21 languages. Given the early limitations, we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple added voices in future iOS updates, or when Siri leaves Beta.
Given the importance of voice in Siri’s performance, I would be surprised if Apple allowed third parties to sell Siri voice packs in the App Store. As much as you would like to have Mr. T., Betty White, KITT, Darth Vader or Hubert J. Farnsworth, telling you that you need an umbrella, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Still, I can dream right?
Me: “Siri, will it rain?”
Mr. T Voice: “I pity the fool without an umbrella.”
We have reached out to Apple for news on this, but so far have not heard about support for multiple voices for Siri. If Apple confirms any information, we will update this post.