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ChatGPT Voice Resembling Scarlett Johansson Was Not AI Generated: Docs

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The voice that was eerily reminiscent to Scarlett Johansson‘s and used for OpenAI’s popular chatbot was that of an actress the artificial intelligence research organization hired months before the company’s CEO ever reached out to the Lucy star.

According to documents and recordings obtained by The Washington Post,  OpenAI sent out a casting call in May 2023 looking to hire non-union actors with “warm, engaging (and) charismatic” voices between the ages of 25 and 45 years old to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system. The outlet reports, citing interviews with multiple people involved in the hiring process and documents shared by OpenAI, that the one thing the company didn’t request was a clone of Johansson, who was approached by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman last September with the opportunity to lend her own voice, which she turned down.

Now, the voice actress’s agent tells the Post that neither Johansson nor the movie Her were ever mentioned by OpenAI. And, based on brief recordings of her initial voice test reviewed by the outlet, the actress’s natural voice sounds identical to the AI-generated voice OpenAI has dubbed “Sky.”

The explanation comes after Johansson spoke out and accused Altman of recreating her voice for ChatGPT, which prompted her to take legal action. In a statement to ET, Johansson, through her rep, shared when she was approached by Altman and her disdain after discovering that “Sky” is eerily reminiscent to her own voice.

“Last September, I received an offer from Sam Altman, who wanted to hire me to voice the current ChatGPT 4.0 system,” Johansson’s statement read. “He told me that he felt that by my voicing the system, I could bridge the gap between tech companies and creatives and help consumers to feel comfortable with the seismic shift concerning humans and AI. He said he felt that my voice would be comforting to people.”

“After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer,” the statement continued. “Nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named ‘Sky’ sounded like me.”

Upon hearing the demo, Johansson said she “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 I voiced a chat system, Samantha, who forms an intimate relationship with a human,” the statement continued, alluding to the 2013 film, Her.

Days before the demo’s release, Johansson claimed in her statement, “Mr. Altman contacted my agent, asking me to reconsider. Before we could connect, the system was out there.”

“As a result of their actions, I was forced to hire legal counsel, who wrote two letters to Mr. Altman and OpenAI, setting out what they had done and asking them to detail the exact process by which they created the ‘Sky’ voice,” the statement read. “Consequently, OpenAI reluctantly agreed to take down the ‘Sky’ voice.”

Johansson’s statement concluded with a general statement about the emergence of AI.

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

After Johansson’s statement, which was first obtained by NPR, Altman addressed the situation in a statement to The Verge.

“The voice of Sky is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never intended to resemble hers,” he said. “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.”

Prior to Johansson’s statement, her husband, Colin Jost, joked about the situation. The moment came during his joke swap with Michael Che on Saturday Night Live over the weekend, in which each man reads jokes that the other wrote without reading them beforehand.

“ChatGPT has released a new voice assistant feature inspired by Scarlett Johansson’s AI character in Her,” a nervous Jost said during the show’s “Weekend Update” segment. “Which I’ve never bothered to watch, because without that body what’s the point of listening?”

Watch the video below for more on Johansson and Jost.

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