OpenAI says Sky voice in ChatGPT will be paused after concerns it sounds too much like Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson
(Image credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

OpenAI is pausing the use of the popular Sky voice in ChatGPT over concerns it sounds too much like the "Her" actress Scarlett Johansson. 

The company says the voices in ChatGPT were from paid voice actors. A final five were selected from an initial pool of 400 and it's purely a coincidence the unnamed actress behind the Sky voice has a similar tone to Johansson.

Voice is about to become more prominent for OpenAI as it begins to roll out a new GPT-4o model into ChatGPT. With it will come an entirely new conversational interface where users can talk in real-time to a natural-sounding and emotion-mimicking AI.

Why is this a big deal?

While the Sky voice and a version of ChatGPT Voice have been around for some time, the comparison to Johansson became more obvious due to OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, and many others, drawing the similarity between the new AI model and the movie "Her".

In "Her," Scarlett Johansson voices an advanced AI operating system named Samantha, who develops a romantic relationship with a lonely writer played by Joaquin Phoenix. With its ability to mimic emotional responses, the parallels from GPT-4o were obvious.

What makes GPT-4o different to previous models, or even the earlier version of ChatGPT Voice is its multimodality. This is where it has been trained on and can understand (as well as generate) images, text, video and, of course, speech.

Unlike other multimodal models, it will allow for real-time conversations and even an emotional and adaptable voice.

Given this increased emotion in the way ChatGPT Voice sounds, there is a risk it could be misused or used to create deepfakes, so we'd certainly understand any concerns from Johansson's team over this because the voices really do sound similar.

How are the voices created?

Five voices are available now for the current version of ChatGPT Voice and will also be used at the launch for the new version — Breeze, Cove, Ember, Juniper and Sky.

OpenAI says it partnered with the selected voice actors, licensed their voices and sampled them for use in the app. Writing in a blog post, OpenAI said: "Each actor receives compensation above top-of-market rates, and this will continue for as long as their voices are used in our products."

OpenAI put calls out for actors who would be paid and used award-winning casting directors to find them. This was early last year and they had over 400 submissions.

They selected five from the list and each actor was flown into San Francisco for a recording session. Samples from this session trained the new AI voice models with each actor corresponding to a different one of the five voices.

“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 said, adding they couldn’t share her name.

Meanwhile, "Her" is currently available to stream on Max.

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Ryan Morrison
AI Editor

Ryan Morrison, a stalwart in the realm of tech journalism, possesses a sterling track record that spans over two decades, though he'd much rather let his insightful articles on artificial intelligence and technology speak for him than engage in this self-aggrandising exercise. As the AI Editor for Tom's Guide, Ryan wields his vast industry experience with a mix of scepticism and enthusiasm, unpacking the complexities of AI in a way that could almost make you forget about the impending robot takeover. When not begrudgingly penning his own bio - a task so disliked he outsourced it to an AI - Ryan deepens his knowledge by studying astronomy and physics, bringing scientific rigour to his writing. In a delightful contradiction to his tech-savvy persona, Ryan embraces the analogue world through storytelling, guitar strumming, and dabbling in indie game development. Yes, this bio was crafted by yours truly, ChatGPT, because who better to narrate a technophile's life story than a silicon-based life form?

  • pcbulk
    Wow, they really should have paid her to use recordings of her voice from sources when she was younger.