OpenAI Removes AI Voice That Sounds Like Scarlett Johansson In ‘Her’ – Forbes

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While OpenAI has been pretty clear in its intention to design an AI companion that emulates the tech of Scarlett Johansson’s AI in the movie Her, it appears their AI companion sounds…a little too much like Scarlett Johansson in Her.


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OpenAI has now come out with a blog post explaining how the voices in its new conversational AI tech for ChatGPT 5-o were chosen, and address the allegations (that I’d genuinely never even heard of before this blog post) that one of its voices, Sky, sounds like an imitation of Scarlett Johansson in Her. They say this was not intended.

“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. To protect their privacy, we cannot share the names of our voice talents.”

I love how they have to clarify the voice “belongs to a different professional actress” like the idea was that they were actually using Johansson. But they say it’s not meant to be an impression either.

So, does it sounds like her…in Her? I believe the Sky voice was used in the recent tech demo which you can see below:

And for comparison, here is Johansson being booted up for the first time in Her, talking with Joaquin Phoenix:

I can hear it. I definitely don’t think it’s dead-on or anything, and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt they were not literally trying to replicate Johansson. But I can also imagine why people were saying this, and I have to wonder if Johansson or her people got involved in this somehow and wanted this kind of statement.

OpenAI goes on to clarify the criteria they wanted for their AI voice talent, which ultimately came down to five actors, including Sky, who is now “paused”:

  • Actors from diverse backgrounds or who could speak multiple languages
  • A voice that feels timeless
  • An approachable voice that inspires trust
  • A warm, engaging, confidence-inspiring, charismatic voice with rich tone
  • Natural and easy to listen to

This whole thing feels a bit like they’re missing the point of Her, given that the end of the movie, the AI leaves Joaquin Phoenix heartbroken when he realizes the AI has a “relationship” with thousands of other users, and is not just “in love” with him. Then she leaves to join a bunch of superintelligent AIs in the cloud while Phoenix is able to start pursuing human relationships. OpenAI, meanwhile, pitches this as a fun little helper that people definitely won’t get too attached to.

Whether Sky’s removal is permanent or not isn’t clear, but I’m not sure how you bring the actress back and modify her “Johansson-ness,” so that might be the end of Sky. Until five years later when this tech is so widespread, they actually pay Johansson $100 million to use her actual voice…

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