Unveiling the Echoes: Analyzing Voice Parallels Between Scarlett Johansson and ChatGPT

At last year's BAFTA Film Awards in London, Scarlett Johansson made headlines when she expressed her astonishment at OpenAI's unveiling of a voice assistant strikingly reminiscent of her own. Recent lab analysis seems to validate her perception. Researchers at Arizona State University's artificial intelligence lab conducted an intriguing investigation comparing Johansson's voice to that of OpenAI's now-retracted "Sky" personal assistant. At NPR's behest, forensic voice specialists at the university's speech lab employed AI models to assess the similarity between the acclaimed actress's voice and Sky's speech patterns.

The findings were remarkable. Among around 600 professional actresses, Johansson's voice bore a closer resemblance to Sky than 98% of them. However, she wasn't the sole match. The AI's voice also echoed characteristics of other Hollywood luminaries like Anne Hathaway and Keri Russell, sometimes even rating them as more akin to Sky than Johansson.

Visar Berisha, the Arizona State University computer scientist leading the voice analysis, elucidated that while similarities were evident, the voices weren't identical. Delving into nuanced vocal traits, the study discerned distinctions: Sky's pitch slightly higher than Johansson's, its expressiveness surpassing even that of Johansson's portrayal in "Her," and differences in breathiness. Nevertheless, the parallelism persisted, with both voices sharing identical vocal tract lengths.

Despite these revelations, both OpenAI and a spokesperson for Johansson opted not to comment on the lab's findings, leaving the uncanny connection between Johansson and the AI personal assistant ripe for further speculation.

In the wake of Scarlett Johansson's accusation against OpenAI for allegedly replicating her voice in the latest iteration of ChatGPT, a fervent debate has erupted regarding the tech giant's motives and whether the AI's voice was a deliberate emulation or mere coincidence. Amidst the controversy, OpenAI pressed pause on its Sky voice, one of five options available in the newest ChatGPT version. Insisting that Sky wasn't crafted with Johansson in mind, OpenAI CEO Altman clarified at a recent conference that it was never intended to mimic the renowned actress.

Altman's assertion, however, failed to quell the storm of speculation. Johansson herself expressed indignation at the resemblance, revealing that Altman had twice approached her seeking to license her voice for ChatGPT, a proposition she declined. Upon the release of the updated personal assistants, Johansson was taken aback by how uncannily similar the Sky voice sounded to her own. Adding fuel to the fire, Altman's enigmatic post on X simply stating "her," referencing the 2013 sci-fi romance film in which Johansson voiced an intelligent operating system, heightened suspicions.

OpenAI contends that they enlisted a voice actress to aid in developing the Sky voice months prior to Altman's attempts to contact Johansson. However, the identity of this actress remains undisclosed, with OpenAI citing privacy concerns. Altman, a self-professed admirer of "Her," lauded the film's foresight regarding conversational AI, though whether he directly influenced the casting decisions for the Sky voice remains unclear. OpenAI asserts that Altman deferred casting decisions to Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati, who claimed ignorance of Johansson's voice until comparisons were drawn between Sky and the actress.

Johansson revealed that during Altman's discussions about potentially licensing her voice, he framed it as a means to imbue the state-of-the-art conversational bot with a sense of reassurance for individuals wary of AI services that mimic human interactions. According to Johansson, Altman's final outreach occurred merely two days prior to the public unveiling of the new personal assistant.

After careful deliberation and for personal reasons, I ultimately turned down the offer," Johansson affirmed.

In conclusion, the controversy surrounding OpenAI's ChatGPT and its purported resemblance to Scarlett Johansson's voice underscores the complexities of AI development and ethical considerations regarding voice replication. While OpenAI maintains that the resemblance was unintentional and that Johansson's voice was never directly sought for emulation, Johansson's perspective raises questions about the boundaries of consent and the potential implications of AI technology on personal identity. As the dialogue continues, it serves as a poignant reminder of the evolving relationship between human voices and artificial intelligence in an increasingly digital world.