THE FIRST TIME Alex Acero saw Her, he watched it like a normal person. The second time, he didn’t watch the movie at all. Acero, the Apple executive in charge of the tech behind Siri, sat there with his eyes closed, listening to how Scarlett Johansson voiced her artificially intelligent character Samantha.
He paid attention to how she talked to Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, and how Twombly talked back. Acero was trying to discern what about Samantha could make someone fall in love without ever seeing her.
When I ask Acero what he learned about why the voice worked so well, he laughs because the answer is so obvious. “It is natural!” he says. “It was not robotic!” This hardly counts as a revelation, but it means Apple has spent the last few years on the right project.
Read more: How Apple Finally Made Siri Sound More Human