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Scarlett Johansson says OpenAI tried to hire her for an AI voice, then hired a soundalike

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This morning, OpenAI announced that it was going to "pause the use" of one of the AI voices, Sky, for its ChatGPT AI chatbot. Many people have remarked that the voice sounded very much like actor Scarlett Johansson. who also voiced a fictional AI chatbot, Samantha, in the 2013 movie Her. However, the company's announcement claimed today that "Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson."

Well, as it turns out, OpenAI might not have been completely open about this situation. This afternoon, Johansson sent out a lengthy statement of her own to NPR's Bobby Allyn, who posted the full statement on his X account. In short, Johansson says there is a connection between the actor and OpenAI and not in a good way.

Johansson stated that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman invited her to record her voice for the ChatGPT AI chatbot in September 2023. She decided to decline his invitation for unnamed personal reasons.

Fast forward to last week's demo of ChatGPT-4o, with the voice that sounded very much like Johansson's coming out of the smartphone. Johansson's statement said:

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. Mr. Altman even insinuated that the similarity was intentional, tweeting a single word "her" - a reference to the film in which | voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human.

She also claims that two days before that demo, OpenAI reportedly reached out to her agent to ask her to reconsider Altman's original offer, The ChatGPT-4o demo went live before the agent could respond.

Johansson said her lawyers then contacted OpenAI and Altman, asking them how the voice for the Sky soundalike was created. It was only then that OpenAI decided to "pause" Sky's voice.

Her statement concluded by saying:

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. I look forward to resolution in the form of transparency and the passage of appropriate legislation to help ensure that individual rights are protected.”

Neither OpenAI nor Altman have responded to Johansson's statement.

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