back to top

OpenAI Halts Use of Controversial Voice After Resemblance to Scarlett Johansson Sparks Outcry

The issue emerged after a video demo of OpenAI’s new GPT-4o model, featuring the Sky voice, went viral. Users quickly noticed the voice's resemblance to Johansson’s, with some ridiculing its flirtatious tone and comparing it to the character she voiced in the 2013 film “Her.” The demo displayed the chatbot making playful remarks that many deemed inappropriate and overly suggestive.

Share

OpenAI has paused the use of one of its ChatGPT voices, known as “Sky,” following widespread public outcry over its striking similarity to actress Scarlett Johansson’s voice. The decision comes after Johansson expressed shock and disappointment upon hearing the voice, which led her to seek legal counsel.

The issue emerged after a video demo of OpenAI’s new GPT-4o model, featuring the Sky voice, went viral. Users quickly noticed the voice’s resemblance to Johansson’s, with some ridiculing its flirtatious tone and comparing it to the character she voiced in the 2013 film “Her.” The demo displayed the chatbot making playful remarks that many deemed inappropriate and overly suggestive.

In a statement released on Monday, Johansson revealed that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman had approached her in September 2023 to voice the ChatGPT system. She declined the offer for personal reasons. Johansson was taken aback to discover that the new voice sounded so similar to her own that even her friends and family were fooled.

Johansson’s statement detailed her shock and anger, particularly after Altman tweeted the word “Her,” a reference to the film where she voiced a virtual assistant. Before the demo’s release, Altman had reached out to her agent to reconsider the offer, but the system was launched before any resolution.

Legal counsel for Johansson contacted OpenAI, demanding transparency about the creation process of the Sky voice. In response, OpenAI agreed to take down the voice. The company emphasized that Sky’s voice was provided by a different professional actress and was not intended to mimic Johansson’s.

In a blog post, OpenAI wrote, “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.” The company also noted that it cannot disclose the names of its voice talents to protect their privacy.

Altman issued an apology, stating, “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.”

Johansson’s statement called for greater clarity and protection of individual likenesses, especially in an era of deepfakes and AI-generated content. She urged for appropriate legislation to safeguard personal rights.

OpenAI plans to introduce additional voices in ChatGPT to better match the diverse interests and preferences of users, aiming for voices that are “approachable,” “warm,” and “confidence-inspiring.”

The incident underscores the ongoing challenges and ethical considerations in the development and deployment of AI technologies, particularly those involving personal and celebrity likenesses.

Read more

Local News