Scarlett Johansson ‘Shocked, Angered’ Over OpenAI’s Artificial Voice

OpenAI has responded after criticism from Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, over a synthetic voice released with an update to ChatGPT.

Scarlett Johansson said in a statement shared with CNN on Monday that she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief” that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman would use a synthetic voice called ‘Sky’, that was “so eerily similar” to hers.

Last week OpenAI launched a new AI model called GPT-4o with improved text, video and audio capabilities. The new model is capable of realistic voice conversation and can interact across text and visual modes. It featured five voices, including Sky.

Image credit: Matheus Bertelli/Pexels

Sky voice

But now OpenAI has confirmed in a tweet on X (formerly Twitter) that it is pausing the use of Sky, after it was compared to the artificial voice that was portrayed by Johansson in the quasi-dystopian film “Her” from 2013.

“We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky,” OpenAI said in athe post on Monday. “We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them.”

CNN reported Scarlett Johansson had said Sam Altman offered to hire her last September to voice the ChatGPT 4.0 system. She said she declined the offer for “personal reasons.”

“Two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there.”

Johansson reportedly said she hired legal counsel, and said OpenAI “reluctantly agreed” to take down the “Sky” voice after her counsel sent Altman two letters.

“In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity. I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected,” Johansson was quoted as writing.

Not Scarlett Johansson

But OpenAI in a blog post on Sunday, insisted that the voice in question is not derived from Scarlett Johansson, but instead “belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.

“Each of the five distinct voices you hear has been carefully selected through an extensive process spanning five months involving professional voice actors, talent agencies, casting directors, and industry advisors,” OpenAI stated.

“Each of the voices – Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper and Sky – are sampled from voice actors we partnered with to create them,” it added.

CNN reported that Sam Altman reiterated the company’s stance that “Sky” was voiced by a different actress in a statement Monday, following Johansson’s claims.

“The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers,” Altman was quoted by CNN as saying. “We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson. Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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