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Scarlett Johansson “Shocked” at OpenAI’s Chatbot Voice Scarlett Johansson “Shocked” at OpenAI’s Chatbot Voice
Actress Scarlett Johansson expressed shock and anger after OpenAI released a chatbot with a strikingly similar voice.  The BBC reports that... Scarlett Johansson “Shocked” at OpenAI’s Chatbot Voice

Actress Scarlett Johansson expressed shock and anger after OpenAI released a chatbot with a strikingly similar voice.  The BBC reports that Johansson revealed she had previously declined an offer from OpenAI to lend her voice to the company’s new chatbot, which reads text aloud to users.

The controversy erupted when commentators drew parallels between the chatbot’s “Sky” voice and Johansson’s voice in the 2013 film Her in which the actress provides the voice of an AI chatbot by the name of Samantha.

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Because of the brewing controversy, OpenAI announced on Monday that it would remove the contentious voice, but denied any intention of mimicking Johansson. The actress, however, accused the company and its founder, Sam Altman, of deliberately copying her voice.

In a statement seen by the BBC, Johansson 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.” She added that Altman’s tweet, which read “her” in reference to the film, implied the similarity was intentional.

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Despite the persuasive pitch, Johansson declined the offer for personal reasons. Just two days before the Sky chatbot’s release, Altman contacted her agent, urging her to reconsider. Johansson said she had to hire lawyers and send two legal letters to OpenAI to determine how the voice was created.

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,” she wrote.

OpenAI’s founder, Sam Altman, responded in a statement to the BBC, denying any intent to imitate Johansson’s voice. “The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers. We cast the voice actor behind Sky’s voice before any outreach to Ms. Johansson. Out of respect for Ms. Johansson, we have paused using Sky’s voice in our products. We are sorry to Ms. Johansson that we didn’t communicate better.

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OpenAI also mentioned it is “working to pause” the voice while addressing questions about its selection process. According to a blog post, the voices used by its chatbot were sampled from voice actors the company partnered with.

Though legal action was threatened by the actress, it’s unknown if a case will move forward now that voice has been put on ice.

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