Scarlett Johansson Says a ChatGPT Voice Is ‘Eerily Similar’ to Hers and OpenAI Is Halting Its Use

Scarlett Johansson Says a ChatGPT Voice Is ‘Eerily Similar’ to Hers and OpenAI Is Halting Its Use
Scarlett Johansson attends the premiere of Fox Searchlights' "Jojo Rabbit" at Post 43 in Los Angeles on Oct. 15, 2019. (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

NEW YORK—OpenAI on Monday said it plans to halt the use of one of its ChatGPT voices that actress Scarlett Johansson says sounds “eerily similar” to her own.

In a post on the social media platform X, OpenAI said it is “working to pause” Sky—the name of one of five voices that ChatGPT users can chose to speak with. The company said it had “heard questions” about how it selects the lifelike audio options available for its flagship artificial intelligence chatbot, particularly Sky, and wanted to address them.

Among those raising questions was Ms. Johansson, who famously voiced a fictional, and at the time futuristic, AI assistant in the 2013 film “Her.”

Ms. Johansson issued a statement saying that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman had approached her in September asking her if she would lend her voice to the system, saying he felt it would be “comforting to people” not at ease with the technology. She said she declined the offer.

“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,” Ms. Johansson said.

She said OpenAI “reluctantly” agreed to take down the Sky voice after she hired lawyers who wrote Mr. Altman letters asking about the process by which the company came up with the voice.

OpenAI had moved to debunk the internet’s theories about Ms. Johansson in a blog post accompanying its earlier announcement aimed at detailing how ChatGPT’s voices were chosen. The company wrote that it believed AI voices “should not deliberately mimic a celebrity’s distinctive voice” and that the voice of Sky belongs to a “different professional actress.” But it added that it could not share the name of that professional for privacy reasons.

In a statement sent to The Associated Press following Ms. Johansson’s response late Monday, Mr. Altman said that OpenAI cast the voice actor behind Sky “before any outreach” to Ms. Johansson.

“The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers,” Mr. Altman said. “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.”

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