OpenAI drops ChatGPT’s ‘Sky’ voice after Scarlett Johansson 'Her' comparisons

OpenAI's GPT-4o model was debuted with a voice that immediately drew comparisons to Scarlett Johansson and the move 'Her' prompting the ChatGPT maker to pause its use.

OpenAI drops ChatGPT’s ‘Sky’ voice after Scarlett Johansson 'Her' comparisons
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OpenAI is pausing the "Sky" voice after being compared to Scarlett Johansson's character in the movie Her.

The ChatGPT maker confirmed that it was not Johansson's voice used for Voice Mode with GPT-4o, but it is pulling the voice for now. "We believe that AI voices should not deliberately mimic a celebrity's distinctive voice," said OpenAI in a blog post sharing how the voice actors for its Voice Mode feature were chosen.

Why OpenAI is pausing its Sky voice

"We’ve heard questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT, especially Sky," in a post on X. OpenAI is "working to pause the use of Sky" while it addresses those questions.

OpenAI didn't elaborate on what those questions are, but the fact that the female Sky voice that sounds like the voice assistant that Joaquin Phoenix's character falls in love with in the sci-fi movie didn't sit well with people. The voice in a particular demo that sounded like it was flirting with the male demo-er and complimenting his hoodie was mocked on the Daily Show for its "horniness."

The Sky voice has been around since OpenAI first released Voice Mode in September of 2023 as one of five options to choose from in addition to "Breeze", "Cove", "Ember", and "Juniper". But OpenAI's announcement of GPT-4o, which brings these voice capabilities directly into the model, exclusively uses Sky, thus casting a spotlight on that particular voice. During the live demo, even OpenAI CEO Sam Altman picked up on the comparisons to Scarlett Johansson, when he posted, "her" on X.

Despite Altman's knowing wink at the futuristic premise, OpenAI says Sky was not intended to imitate Scarlett Johansson's voice. Instead, according to OpenAI, the voices come from actors that were chosen based on characteristics such as timelessness, approachability, trustworthiness, confidence, inspiration, and charisma — all wrapped up in a rich and warm tone.

There has been lots of analysis about why female voices are often used for voice assistants. But this one met the wrong criteria; it sounded too much like Scarlett Johansson — and a little too excited to chat with its users.

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