Sam Altman Dismisses AI Voice Claims: 'Not Scarlett Johansson's'

OpenAI faces backlash over new AI voice similarities.

by Nouman Rasool
Sam Altman Dismisses AI Voice Claims: 'Not Scarlett Johansson's'
© Mike Coppola/Getty Images

At the recent AI for Good Summit, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman faced inquiries regarding the controversial AI-generated voice dubbed "Sky," which critics claim mimics the distinctive tone of actress Scarlett Johansson. The summit, hosted by the International Telecommunication Union—a U.N.

agency—saw Altman interviewed by Nicholas Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic, just days after the two companies announced a collaboration. During the interview, Altman attempted to clarify the confusion surrounding the "Sky" chatbot voice.

"It’s not her voice, it’s not supposed to be. I’m sorry for the confusion, clearly you think it is," he explained, emphasizing that OpenAI did not intend to replicate Johansson's voice. He acknowledged the subjective nature of voice resemblance, stating, "People are going to have different opinions about how much voices sound alike, but we don’t.

It’s not her voice."

Sky Voice Controversy

The issue gained traction after a public demonstration by OpenAI of a new voice function for ChatGPT. The voice, referred to as "Sky," bore a resemblance to Johansson's, according to some users.

Subsequently, OpenAI decided to withdraw the voice amid rising concerns. Johansson herself has spoken out, revealing in a statement that Altman had approached her in late 2023 with a proposal to use her voice for the project.

"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," Johansson disclosed.

Despite considering the offer, she ultimately declined for personal reasons. Months later, the resemblance of the "Sky" system's voice to Johansson's was noted by many, including her friends and family, escalating the issue.

Altman, during the demo, even tweeted "her," which appeared to be a nod to the 2013 film Her, where Johansson voiced an AI character, further fueling speculations. This incident underscores the ongoing tensions between the generative AI sector and the entertainment industry, with potential legal ramifications as voice actors and the Screen Actors Guild?American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) push for legislation to protect voice and likeness rights. The debate continues as both industries navigate the complex landscape of digital innovation and intellectual property.

Scarlett Johansson