Have you met the voice behind your GPS?

When Great Big Story relaunched in 2023, we weren’t certain which direction to go for as our first story back. But then we thought, what better way than meeting Karen Jacobsen? After all, as the original voice of GPS, she has helped billions of people reach their destination.

Karen Jacobsen hails from Queensland, Australia. She smiles at the fact that the Australian accent was discovered to be “the most pleasant English-speaking accent to listen to”, and the research has been proven successful. Just look at how many billions have listened to the voiceover work she recorded, after replying to an audition looking for Australians in New York City.

This was all unimaginable back in 2002, when Jacobsen sat down to record over 50 hours of audio for the original GPS trial system. This included 168 different versions of the word “approximately”. 

Though these recordings have become what Jacobsen is best known for, she initially moved to the United States to pursue a career in music. 


Read More: How what3words overcame the language barrier to redefine global navigation


While 50 hours might sound like a lot (and Jacobsen clarifies the script was massive), it was actually a pretty efficient process. Engineers working on the project had calculated the minimum number of syllables required so that they could chop up her voice and piece together the various parts of the language they needed.

It turned out she was a pretty popular choice and the recordings made it onto all sorts of devices that got shipped around the globe. Remarkable, isn’t it?


Like this Great Big Story? We think you also might like the video below! Their voices are very different from each other, but they’re equally popular.

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