RIP ChatGPT’s knockoff Scarlett Johansson voice [2023 — 2024]

RIP ChatGPT’s knockoff Scarlett Johansson voice [2023 — 2024]

Kris Holt

When OpenAI showed off GPT-4o’s seemingly more-human like voice mode last week, observers were quick to point out that one of ChatGPT’s voices sounds like Scarlett Johansson, particularly her character in Her. The company says the similarity between the flirty AI voice Sky (which it actually rolled out in September) and Johansson was unintentional. However, it’s “working to pause the use of Sky” while it addresses some questions about the voice.

“We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice — Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice,” OpenAI wrote in a blog post detailing how it picked ChatGPT’s five voices. “To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.” It added that each of the performers is paid “above top-of-market rates, and this will continue for as long as their voices are used in our products.”

For what it’s worth, shortly after OpenAI demoed the upgraded version of Sky, CEO Sam Altman posted the word “her” on X. But it’s definitely “not an imitation.”

Johansson’s performance in Her is one of the more famous depictions of a virtual voice assistant in cinema. The film predated the conversational AI craze by around a decade, so it’s not too much of a surprise that Johansson’s portrayal of a breezy, warm chatbot is effectively a template for current voice assistants. The actor previously took legal action against a developer that was said to have used an AI-generated version of her voice and likeness in an ad.

It’s unclear why exactly OpenAI removed Sky for the time being or what changes (if any) it plans to make before restoring the voice in ChatGPT. Engadget has asked the company for comment.

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