Karen Jacobson, originally from Makai, a town in north Queensland near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, is known as the only woman men will take directions from. Her speaking voice ended up in over a billion GPS and smartphone devices giving directions to people around the world. But how did she become the voice behind the directions we hear on google maps in our cars?
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Karen had a dream of becoming a professional singer and moved to New York to pursue her dream. Soon after she moved, she attended an audition looking for a native Australian female voice-over artist living in the northeast of the United States. She got the job, and the team of engineers started working on creating a voice system based on her speaking voice.
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At the time, the Australian accent was considered the most pleasant English speaking accent to listen to, and Karen’s voice fit the bill. There was a massive script, and the engineers had figured out every combination of syllables possible for Karen to record. She went into the booth and recorded different lines such as “at the next intersection, turn left,” “turn right at the roundabout,” and “you have reached your destination.”
Karen had to say the word “approximately” approximately 168 times in a row to get it just right. But she enjoyed the process and the fact that her voice is going to live on forever. “The power is going to my head,” she joked.
When asked to use her voice, Karen gladly obliges because she likes to keep people safe. Her voice is familiar to many, and it’s incredible to think that her voice will guide people for years to come.
So the next time you hear Karen’s voice giving you directions, remember that it all started with a dream of becoming a professional singer and a job opportunity that led to her voice being heard around the world.