ChatGPT Loses ‘Sky’ Voice Amid OpenAI Scarlett Johansson Controversy

ChatGPT Loses 'Sky' Voice Amid OpenAI's Scarlett Johansson Controversy
Image Courtesy: JCS and Village Global, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
In Short
  • Last week, OpenAI demoed ChatGPT 4o's natural voice conversation capability using the 'Sky' voice that sounded eerily similar to Scarlett Johansson's voice.
  • It turns out, Sam Altman was in contact with Johansson to become the voice of ChatGPT 4o since September 2023. However, she refused to accept the offer.
  • Johansson now seeks absolute clarity and transparency as to how OpenAI developed the 'Sky' voice. Now, OpenAI has paused the 'Sky' voice on ChatGPT.

It seems OpenAI has been embroiled in several controversies lately. Just a few days ago, OpenAI’s contentious employee exit contract came to light which revealed that it penalized former employees by revoking their equity if they criticized OpenAI. And now OpenAI has dropped the ‘Sky’ voice from ChatGPT after Scarlett Johansson sought clarity from the company on the uncanny similarity.

OpenAI recently launched its ChatGPT 4o model at the Spring Update event and made it free for everyone. At the event, the company demoed incredibly natural voice conversation using the ChatGPT 4o model. The ‘Sky’ voice seemed eerily similar to Scarlett Johansson’s voice from the movie ‘Her’. Many people noticed it and drew a parallel between both voices.

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, couldn’t help it either and tweeted ‘her’ on X. This led to even more buzz in the town. However, just five days after launch, OpenAI dropped the ‘Sky’ voice from ChatGPT. The company explained how the ChatGPT voices were chosen and the ‘Sky’ voice was sampled from voice actors that OpenAI partnered with.

By the way, OpenAI didn’t name the voice actor behind the ‘Sky’ voice to protect their privacy. Now, in a statement to The Verge, Sam Altman said we have paused Sky’s voice “Out of respect for Ms. Johansson“. As for the similarity between the ‘Sky’ voice and Scarlett Johansson’s voice, OpenAI’s blog said the following:

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. To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.

Now, an NPR report says that Scarlett Johansson feels betrayed after seeing the uncanny similarity between her and Sky’s voice in ChatGPT. Johansson’s lawyers have written letters to OpenAI asking it to explain “the exact process by which they created the “Sky” voice“.

It turns out, Sam Altman was in contact with Scarlett Johansson since September 2023 to become the voice behind ChatGPT 4o. However, Johansson declined the offer for personal reasons. Nine months later, OpenAI released ChatGPT 4o with the ‘Sky’ voice that sounded exactly like Johansson’s voice. Scarlett Johansson said:

I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference.

Now, Johansson seeks absolute clarity and transparency so that individual rights are protected. What is your opinion on this development? Let us know in the comments below.

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