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Bereft ChatGPT fans start petition to bring back controversial ‘Sky’ chatbot voice


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Bereft ChatGPT fans start petition to bring back controversial ‘Sky’ chatbot voice

OpenAI has pulled ChatGPT’s popular ‘Sky’ chatbot voice after Scarlett Johansson expressed her “disbelief” at how “eerily similar” it sounded to her own. But fans of the controversial voice in the ChatGPT app aren’t happy – and have now started a petition to bring it back.

The Sky voice, which is one of several that are available in the ChatGPT app for iOS and Android, is no longer available after

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that it’d had hit pause in order to address “questions about how we chose the voices in ChatGPT”.

Those questions became very pointed yesterday when Johansson wrote a fiery statement given to

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that she was “shocked, angered and in disbelief” that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman would “pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine” after she had apparently twice declined licensing her voice for the ChatGPT assistant.

OpenAI has rejected those accusations, stating in a

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that “Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson but belongs to a different professional actress using her own natural speaking voice.” But pressure from Johansson’s lawyers, which NPR reports are demanding answers, has forced OpenAI to suspend the voice – and fans aren’t happy.

In a fascinating example of how attached some are already becoming to AI chatbots, a

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titled ‘Petition to bring Sky voice back’ includes a link to a Change petition, which currently has over 300 signatures.

In fairness, many of the

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comments and signatures predate Johansson’s statement and OpenAI’s reasoning for pulling the Sky voice option in the ChatGPT app. And it now looks increasingly likely that the voice won’t simply be paused but instead put on indefinite hiatus.

But the thread is still an interesting, and mildly terrifying, glimpse of where we’re headed with convincing AI chatbot voices, whether they’re licensed from famous actresses or not. One comment from Redditor JohnDango states that “she was the only **** I spoke to that had a ‘realness’ about her that made it feel like a real step beyond chatbot,” while GaneshLookALike noted mournfully that “Sky was full of warmth and compassion.”

That voice, which we also found to be one of ChatGPT’s most convincing options, is now on the backburner while the case rumbles on. 

What next for ChatGPT’s Sky voice?

It doesn’t sound like ChatGPT’s ‘Sky’ voice is going to return anytime soon. In her statement shared with NPR, Scarlett Johansson said she’d been “forced to hire legal counsel” and send letters to OpenAI asking how the voice had been made. OpenAI’s

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looks like its response to those questions, though it ******** to be seen whether that’s enough to keep the lawyers at bay.

Johansson understandably sounds determined to pursue the issue, adding in her statement to NPR that “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.” 

While there’s no suggestion that OpenAI cloned Johansson’s voice, the company did reveal in March that it had developed a new voice synthesizer that could apparently copy a voice from just 15 seconds of audio. That tool was never released to the public due to concerns about how it might be misused, with

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that it was investigating the “responsible deployment of synthetic voices”.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman also didn’t exactly help his company’s cause by simply posting “her” on X (formerly

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) on the eve of the launch of its GPT-4o model, which included the new voice mode that it demoed. That looks like a thinly-veiled reference to Spike Jonze’s movie Her, about a man who develops a relationship with an AI virtual assistant Samantha, which was voiced by none other than Scarlett Johansson.

For now, then, it looks like fans of the ChatGPT app will need to make do with the other voices – including Breeze, Cove, Ember and Juniper – while this fascinating case rumbles on. This also shouldn’t effect the rollout of GPT-4o’s impressive new conversational voice powers, which OpenAI says it will be rolling out “in alpha within ChatGPT Plus in the coming weeks”.

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