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Scarlett Johansson Expresses Shock And Anger Over OpenAI’s ChatGPT Voice Resembling Her

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OpenAI founder Sam Altman now faces a more formidable challenge than any board of directors: Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson.

According to the New York Times, Johansson released a statement revealing that Altman had asked her to voice ChatGPT’s text-to-speech product in September, citing her “comforting” voice. She declined the offer. Nine months later, when ChatGPT introduced its voice product, Johansson was “shocked, angered, and in disbelief” to hear a voice that sounded so similar to hers that even her closest friends and news outlets couldn’t tell the difference.

In her statement to the Times, Johansson said she hired legal counsel to inquire about how OpenAI created the voice, called Sky. Altman has publicly expressed his admiration for the 2013 movie “Her,” in which Johansson stars as a voice robot.

OpenAI’s voice mode function, launched in 2023, allows users to interact with ChatGPT by speaking to it. It also serves as a text-to-speech tool, offering five different voice options for reading answers to user prompts.

Altman stated that Sky’s voice is not Johansson’s, but OpenAI paused its use to address user concerns about voice selection and sampling in ChatGPT. He added that the voice of Sky “was never intended to resemble hers” and that the voice actor was cast before any outreach to 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,” Altman told CBS MoneyWatch.

OpenAI announced on X (formerly Twitter) that it was pausing the use of Sky. In a blog post, OpenAI detailed its voice selection process, emphasizing that the Sky voice was provided by an actor not related to Johansson. The company worked with casting professionals and voice actors, narrowing the final voices from 400 options. The chosen actors are paid as long as their voices are used in ChatGPT’s products. The criteria for selection included timelessness and ease of listening.

Johansson’s publicist stated on Monday that Altman had initially reached out to her about voicing the system, but she declined. Altman contacted her agent again two days before the voice demo’s launch, asking her to reconsider, but the voice was released before they could connect.

Johansson said her lawyers demanded OpenAI and Altman detail the process used to create the Sky voice. Following these demands, the voice was removed. Some users expressed disappointment at Sky’s temporary removal, calling it “the best” or their “favorite” voice. OpenAI has not indicated when or if the voice will be reinstated.

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