GPT-4o loses Sky’s voice after Scarlett Johansson objects

May 21, 2024

  • OpenAI removed GPT-4o’s Sky voice after Scarlett Johansson said it sounded similar to hers
  • Sam Altman said the company did not intend to imitate her despite inviting her collaboration
  • OpenAI says GPT-4o’s voices are the result of its work with human voice actors

OpenAI has removed GPT-4o’s “Sky” voice after Scarlett Johansson said the company intentionally copied her voice.

GPT-4o wowed us with the natural-sounding voices during a demo of the soon-to-be-released Voice Mode. Actress Scarlett Johansson says that GPT-4o’s Sky sounds uncannily like her own voice and it’s hard to dismiss her claim that this was intentional.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has argued that this was not the case and that any resemblance is purely coincidental.

In a blog post outlining the process of how GPT-4o got its voices, OpenAI said, “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.”

Johansson disagreed and instituted legal proceedings that sought further detail about the truth behind Sky’s voice.

In a lengthy statement, Johansson explained her reasons for believing that the resemblance to her voice was intentional.

Her statement said in part, “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 A.I.

“He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people. 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.

“When I heard the released demo, 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.”

Altman didn’t do his argument any favors when he posted this single word post on X after the GPT-4o announcement.

His post references Altman‘s favorite movie, “Her”, in which Scarlett Johansson plays the voice talent behind a virtual assistant with whom Joaquin Phoenix’s character falls in love.

Even so, Altman insists that the 5 voices GPT-4o has were whittled down from 400 submissions from voice actors and any similarity to other people’s voices is unintentional.

In a statement provided to The Verge, Altman said, “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.”

When we eventually get access to GPT-4o’s Voice Mode it will be a little less sultry than the original demo.

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Eugene van der Watt

Eugene comes from an electronic engineering background and loves all things tech. When he takes a break from consuming AI news you'll find him at the snooker table.


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