OpenAI Removes New AI Voice After Scarlett Johansson Notes It Is “Eerily Similar” To Her Own

OpenAI Removes New AI Voice After Scarlett Johansson Notes It Is “Eerily Similar” To Her Own

Artificial intelligence (AI) company OpenAI has removed a new voice from their latest product, after actor Scarlett Johansson noted it was “eerily similar” to her own.

Earlier this month, OpenAI announced they were releasing a new model, dubbed GPT-4o. The product allows for text, audio, and image outputs, and can respond using image, text, and audio with response times they claim are similar to those in human conversations. 

One of the voice options, called “Sky”, has sparked controversy for its apparent similarity to that of actor Scarlett Johansson, who herself starred as an AI assistant in Spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her. This is a film of which Sam Altman is well aware, even tweeting the single word “her” on the day of GPT-4o’s launch.

Johansson said in a statement to NPR that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman approached her last September, asking her to be the voice of the new product.

“After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer,” she said in the statement, posted on X by journalist Yashar Ali. “Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named ‘Sky’ sounded like me.”

Johansson adds that two days before the release of “Sky”, Altman again contacted her agent asking her to reconsider being GPT-4o’s voice, but a few days later without response the product was released.

Johansson says she has now hired legal counsel, who have asked Altman to outline what they have done, and detail the process by which the “Sky” voice was created. 

“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,” Johansson added. “I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

OpenAI says that the voice they used was not that of Johansson, but another actor.

“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,” OpenAI said in a blog post. “To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.”

Nevertheless, they have removed the voice from the product.

“We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson,” Altman told NPR. “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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