OpenAI to 'pause' voice linked to Scarlett Johansson

The Hollywood star was "shocked" by an OpenAI synthetic voice that sounds like her

By AFP

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Published: Tue 21 May 2024, 1:07 PM

Movie star Scarlett Johansson said Monday she was "shocked" by an OpenAI synthetic voice that sounds like her, which was released after she declined to work with the ChatGPT-maker on such a project.

The artificial intelligence powerhouse headed by Sam Altman said it was working on temporarily muting the Johannson-sounding voice it calls "Sky."


"I was shocked, angered, and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets couldn't tell the difference," Johannson said in a statement.

Johannson said Altman in September offered to hire her to work with OpenAI to create a synthetic voice, saying it might provide people comfort engaging with AI.


Altman has previously pointed to the Johansson-voiced character in the movie Her -- a cautionary tale about the future in which a man falls in love with an AI chatbot -- as inspiration for where he would like AI interactions to go.

Johannson said Altman insinuated the similarity in voices was intentional when at one point he fired off a single-word tweet on X: "Her."

OpenAI said in a blog post that the "Sky" voice at issue was based on the natural speaking voice of a different professional actress and not meant to sound like Johansson.

"We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity's distinctive voice," OpenAI said in the post.

"Sky's voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson."

OpenAI is working on a way to "pause" Sky as it addresses what appears to be confusion about who it sounds like, the company said on X.

"We've heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky," OpenAI said.

Johansson said she has asked OpenAI for a detailed accounting of how "Sky" was made.

The company explained that it worked with professional voice actors on synthetic voices it named Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper and Sky.

But Sky became the focus of attention last week when OpenAI released a higher-performing and even more humanlike "GPT-4o" version of the artificial intelligence technology that underpins ChatGPT.

In a demo, the new version of Sky was at times even flirtatious and funny, capable of seamlessly jumping from one topic to the next, unlike most existing chatbots.

So far in the AI frenzy, most tech giants have been reluctant to overly humanize chatbots.

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