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Scarlett Johansson also thinks OpenAI's new voice sounds like her. She's not happy about it

Wendy Lee, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

When OpenAI debuted its new voice assistant technology this month, it immediately drew comparisons to the 2013 Spike Jonze sci-fi film “Her.”

As it turns out, the likeness may have been too close for comfort.

Actor Scarlett Johansson, who voiced the computer program in “Her,” said she hired lawyers after discovering OpenAI released a ChatGPT voice that sounded eerily similar to hers without her granting permission.

In a Monday statement, Johansson said she was approached by OpenAI’s chief executive, Sam Altman, in September to voice the ChatGPT 4.0 system, but she declined to participate. Altman had pursued Johansson to lend her voice to the app because “he felt that my voice would be comforting to people,” Johansson said in her statement.

But after she declined, she was angered and shocked to hear a voice used in a demo by OpenAI that sounded like hers. Two days before the demo, Johansson said that Altman contacted her agent asking the actor to reconsider.

In the movie “ Her,” Johansson plays “Samantha,” the disembodied voice of a computer who provides friendship and, eventually, love to a lonely man played by Joaquin Phoenix.

 

“In a time when we are all grappling with deepfakes and the protection of our own likeness, our own work, our own identities, I believe these are questions that deserve absolute clarity,” Johansson said in a statement. “I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

OpenAI on Monday said it is pausing the use of the voice known as “Sky,” which some people say sounds like Johansson.

“We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky,” OpenAI posted on X on Monday. “We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them.”

Altman seemed to invite parallels to the film in his announcement of the interactive voice feature, saying in a blog post that it “feels like AI from the movies.” “Her” was nominated for multiple Oscars, with Jonze winning the Academy Award for original screenplay.

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