OpenAI Says Its Pulling ChatGPT Voice ‘Sky’ That Sounds Like Scarlett Johansson


ChatGPT maker OpenAI on Monday said it is working to drop a voice that sounds like actress Scarlett Johansson, days after the company debuted its new AI voice assistant as part of a major upgrade to its flagship chatbot that intensifies competition with the likes of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

OpenAI said it is “working to pause the use” of one of the voices used in an audible version of ChatGPT in a post on X, formerly Twitter, early Monday morning.

“We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky,” OpenAI said, adding that the voice will be paused until it can address the questions.

Sky is one of the five voices OpenAI debuted as part of its latest AI model, GPT-4o, which powers the company’s hallmark product ChatGPT and allows users to use their voice to interact with the bot and receive responses in kind.

Sky drew widespread attention for its striking similarity to Johansson, particularly her role as an AI voice assistant in the movie Her.

OpenAI itself has acknowledged the vocal similarities between Sky and Johansson but stressed the voice “is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson” and belongs to “a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.”

OpenAI CTO Mira Murati told The Verge Sky is not designed to sound like Johansson either and that the company has had the voices prepared for some time.

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OpenAI cofounder and CEO Sam Altman cryptically posted the word “her” on X after the update and voices were revealed. The tweet was widely received as a reference to the film in which Johansson lends her voice to the role of a virtual assistant. Altman has previously said Her is one of his favorite movies.

While OpenAI is keen to rule out Johansson as the source for Sky, the company said it is unwilling to reveal who is the vocal talent driving the product. “To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents,” OpenAI wrote in a blog. The company stressed it believes “AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice.”

The GPT-4o upgrade is the latest iteration of OpenAI’s powerful GPT4 model, the driving force powering its ChatGPT chatbot. The company says the upgrade is faster and boosts functionality across text, audio and vision and will be free to all users. The introduction of a voice assistant feature firmly entrenches the company as solid competition for tech giants, expanding the threat it already poses in spaces like generative AI and search engines. In particular, the voice assistant feature for ChatGPT places OpenAI in more direct competition with the other digital voice assistants including Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

To get the five voices, OpenAI said it “worked with industry-leading casting and directing professionals to narrow down over 400 submissions before selecting the 5 voices,” with actors flying into San Francisco last June and July for their recording sessions. Each received “above top-of-market rates” for their work, OpenAI said, adding that “even more” voice options will be launched in the future.

Johansson has already been the subject of AI mimicry online. In November, she sued an AI app developer for using her name and likeness in an online ad and reportedly she was recently named alongside Conan O’Brien and singer Ariana Grande as an example in a proposed class action against an AI startup accused of misappropriating celebrities’ voices.

Altman has an estimated net worth of $1 billion. Altman’s fortune does not come from OpenAI, however, as has no equity in the company, and instead he owes his fortune and billionaire status to a series of valuable investments. This includes stakes in recently floated Reddit, fintech Stripe and nuclear fusion effort Helion. Altman founded social mapping company Loopt and served as partner and president at startup accelerator Y Combinator before starting OpenAI.

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