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Scarlett Johansson Demands Clarity on ChatGPT Voice Mirroring ‘Her’ Character

ByHuey Yee Ong

May 21, 2024
Scarlett Johansson Demands Clarity on ChatGPT Voice Mirroring 'Her' Character

Scarlett Johansson Demands Clarity on ChatGPT Voice Mirroring ‘Her’ Character

OpenAI has decided to pause the use of a voice in its ChatGPT model named “Sky” following feedback from users and a legal inquiry initiated by actress Scarlett Johansson. The controversy arose after users noted that “Sky” bore a striking resemblance to Johansson’s voice, particularly reminiscent of her role in the 2013 film “Her.”

The issue gained traction when a video from a recent OpenAI demonstration circulated online, where “Sky” was featured using a voice that many likened to Johansson’s. The voice’s flirtatious tone during the demo led to mixed reactions, with some finding it amusing, while others criticized it for embodying a male fantasy. This voice interaction included the chatbot reacting playfully to comments from an OpenAI employee, with lines like “Wow, that’s quite the outfit you’ve got on,” and “Stop it, you’re making me blush.”

In their blog post, OpenAI reiterated their commitment to creating AI voices that are “approachable,” “inspire trust,” and are “warm, engaging, confidence-inspiring, and charismatic,” without crossing the lines of privacy or ethical misuse.

They also announced plans to introduce more varied voices in the future to better reflect the diversity of user preferences.

Following the demo, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted “Her,” a nod to Johansson’s film, which sparked further speculation about the intentional similarity of the voice to that of Johansson’s character in the movie. In the film, Johansson plays an AI that develops a deep emotional connection with the protagonist.

Reacting to the demo and the ensuing discussion, Johansson issued a statement clarifying that OpenAI had approached her in September to lend her voice for the ChatGPT 4.0 system, which she declined for personal reasons. She expressed shock and frustration when she heard the demo, upset by the similarity of the “Sky” voice to her own. This prompted her to hire legal counsel to address the issue with OpenAI, leading to demands for an explanation and subsequent adjustments.

Here’s Johansson’s statement in full:

In response, OpenAI confirmed the pausing of the “Sky” voice, and issued a formal apology for the misunderstanding and the potential upset caused.

Sam Altman explained, “The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers. 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.”


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Featured Image courtesy of Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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