ChatGPT voice suspended on Scarlett Johansson likeness

OpenAI is halting use of one of its AI voices after users claimed it sounded like Scarlett Johansson.

OpenAI is halting use of one of its AI voices after users claimed it sounded like Scarlett Johansson. Photo: Getty

OpenAI says it plans to halt the use of one of its ChatGPT voices after some users said it sounded like Scarlett Johansson, who famously voiced a fictional, and at the time futuristic, AI assistant in the 2013 film Her.

In a post on the social media platform X, OpenAI said it is “working to pause” Sky – the name of one of five voices that ChatGPT users can chose to speak with.

The company said it had “heard questions” about how it selects the lifelike audio options available for its flagship artificial intelligence chatbot, particularly Sky, and wanted to address them.

OpenAI was also quick to debunk the internet’s theories about Johansson in an accompanying blog post detailing how ChatGPT’s voices were chosen.

“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 wrote.

San Francisco-based OpenAI said it could not share the name of its voice actors for privacy reasons and did not comment further on why it decided to pause Sky’s use.

OpenAI first rolled out voice capabilities for ChatGPT, which included the five different voices, in September, allowing users to engage in back-to-forth conversation with the AI assistant.

The company used the voice Sky during its highly publicised event last week to debut the capabilities of the new ChatGPT-4o artificial intelligence model.

The capabilities have conjured up comparisons to the Spike Jonze’s dystopian romance Her, which follows an introverted man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with an AI-operating system (Johansson), leading to many complications.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman appeared to tap into this, too – simply posting the word “her” on the social media platform X the day of GPT-4o’s unveiling.

Many reacting to the model’s demos last week also found some of the interactions struck a strangely flirtatious tone. In one video posted by OpenAI, a female-voiced ChatGPT compliments a company employee on “rocking an OpenAI hoodie,” for example, and in another the chatbot says “oh stop it, you’re making me blush” after being told that it’s amazing.

That’s sparked some conversation on the gendered ways critics say tech companies have long used to develop and engage with voice assistants, dating back far before the latest wave of generative AI advanced the capabilities of AI chatbots.

In 2019, the United Nations’ culture and science organisation pointed to “hardwired subservience” built into default female-voiced assistants (like Apple’s Siri to Amazon’s Alexa), even when confronted with sexist insults and harassment.

“This is clearly programmed to feed dudes’ egos,” The Daily Show senior correspondent Desi Lydic said of GPT-4o. “You can really tell that a man built this tech.”


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