ChatGPT to ‘pause’ use of voice following Scarlett Johansson comparison

OpenAI has said it will “pause” the use of one of the voices in ChatGPT after it drew comparisons with Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson.

Some users had commented on a similarity between Johansson’s voice and one of the voice options named Sky found inside the app following an update that makes ChatGPT more conversational and even flirtatious, according to some commentators.

Johansson famously provided the voice for the AI interface in the 2013 film Her, set in the near-future and where Joaquin Phoenix’s character slowly falls in love with the virtual assistant.

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson provided the voice for the AI interface in the 2013 film Her (Doug Peters/PA)

In a post to X, formerly Twitter, OpenAI said: “We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky. We are working to pause the use of Sky while we address them.”

In a blog post published alongside that message, the artificial intelligence giant said: “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.”

The post added each of the voices ChatGPT uses “has been carefully selected through an extensive process spanning five months involving professional voice actors, talent agencies, casting directors, and industry advisers”.

The company said it had spoken to each shortlisted voice actor about the technology’s capabilities and limitations, as well as its risks and the safeguards the company has in place before deciding on the final five who would be used in the app.

OpenAI unveiled its new AI model, named GPT-4o, last week, with a highlight of the update being the more conversational, human-sounding responses the app’s various voices would now be able to give.

Those updated features have not yet been rolled out, but are due to reach paying Chat-GPT subscribers in the coming weeks.