Sam Altman sorry to ScarJo for ChatGPT 4o voice sounding like ‘Her’

Johansson said she was “shocked” and “angered” when she heard the voice option was already being used by ChatGPT and that it “sounded so eerily similar to mine" despite her refusing Altman's offer.

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OpenAI removed the voice only after the controversy

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Hollywood superstar Scarlett Johansson has heavily criticised Sam Altman’s OpenAI for using an “eerily similar” voice to hers for their new ChatGPT 4o chatbot named Sky. Subsequently, Altman has said that “the voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers”, and apologised to the actress for not communicating better. OpenAI added that they had discontinued using the voice.

In an earlier statement, Johansson had said that she refused to lend her voice for the chatbot in September 2023.

“Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system. He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people,” Johansson wrote in the statement shared with NBC News.

“After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer. Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named ‘Sky’ sounded like me,” the actress said.

She added: “Two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there.”

SHOCKED, ANGERED

Johansson said she was “shocked” and “angered” when she heard the voice option was already being used for Sky, and that it “sounded so eerily similar to mine that my closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference”. The actress said her lawyers had to get in touch with the American AI company in a bid to get the voice removed.

Despite publicising the voice massively during their livestream event last week where the new ChatGPT-4o model was unveiled, OpenAI decided to remove the voice only after it started courting controversy. At the event, soon after the voice was unveiled, guests, the media as well as social media were promptly spotting similarities between Sky’s voice and that of Scarlett Johansson’s AI character Samantha in writer-director Spike Jonze’s 2013 sci-fi romance, Her.

In the film, a loner named Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, falls in love with Samantha, his AI assistant who is only personified through Johansson’s voice.

Altman, in fact, did initially reveal efforts to publicise his new product using Johansson’s voice and film role when, after unveiling Sky at the event, he wrote a one-word post on X: “her”.

Within a few days, however, Altman was categorically denying all efforts to draw any sort of likeness between Johansson’s voice and that of Sky.

“The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers. We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. 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 subsequently said in a statement shared with CNN.

A clarification was also issued by OpenAI in a company blogpost: “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.”

The company said voices for ChatGPT were selected based on several parameters including an “approachable” quality “that inspires trust”, and an element of the “timeless”.

Sky Sam Altman Scarlett Johansson ChatGPT