OpenAI didn’t intend to copy Scarlett Johansson’s voice, ‘The Washington Post’ reports

OpenAI didn’t intend to copy Scarlett Johansson’s voice, ‘The Washington Post’ reports

OpenAI cast the actor of Sky’s voice months before Sam Altman contacted Scarlett Johansson, and it had no intention of finding someone who sounded like her, according to The Washington Post. The publication said the flier OpenAI issued last year looked for actors that had “warm, engaging [and] charismatic” voices. They needed to be between 25 and 45 years old and had to be non-union, but OpenAI reportedly didn’t specify that it was looking for a Scarlett Johansson voice-alike. If you’ll recall, Johansson accused the company of copying her likeness without permission for its Sky voice assistant.

The agent of Sky’s voice told The Post that the company never talked about Johansson or the movie Her with their talent. OpenAI apparently didn’t tweak the actor’s recordings to sound like Johansson either, because her natural voice sounded like Sky’s, based on the clips of her initial voice test that The Post had listened to. OpenAI product manager Joanne Jang told the publication that the company selected actors who were eager to work on AI. She said that Mira Murati, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, made all the decisions about the AI voices project and that Altman was not intimately involved in the process.

Jang also told the publication that to her, Sky sounded nothing like Johansson. Sky’s actress told The Post through her agent that she just used her natural voice and that she has never been compared to Johansson by the people who know her closely. But in a statement Johansson’s team shared with Engadget, she said that she was shocked OpenAI pursued a voice that “sounded so eerily similar” to hers that her “closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference” after she turned down Altman’s offer to voice ChatGPT.

Johansson said that Altman first contacted her in September 2023 with the offer and then reached out again just two days before the company introduced GPT-4o to ask her to reconsider. Sky has been one of ChatGPT’s voices since September, but GPT-4o gave it the power to have more human-like conversations with users. That made its similarities to Johansson’s voice more apparent — Altman tweeting “her” after OpenAI demonstrated the new large language model didn’t help with the situation and invited more comparisons to the AI virtual assistant Johansson voiced in the movie. OpenAI has paused using Sky’s voice “out of respect” for Johansson’s concerns, it wrote in a blog post. The actor said, however, that the company only stopped using Sky after she hired legal counsel who wrote Altman and the company to ask for an explanation.

If you’re wondering if Sky truly does sound like Johansson, we embedded a video below so you can judge for yourself. It’s a recording of Johansson’s statement as read by the Sky voice assistant, posted by Victor Mochere on YouTube. Opinions in the comment section are divided, with some saying that it does sound like her if she were robotic, while others say that the voice sounds more like Rashida Jones.

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