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 OpenAI stated yesterday on X (formerly Twitter) 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 NPR 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 blog post 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 popular Reddit thread 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 Reddit 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 bot 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?

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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 blog post looks like its response to those questions, though it remains 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 OpenAI stating 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 Twitter) 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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Windows 7 should live on as open source, spectacularly optimistic petition demands

Windows 7 may have reached end-of-life, with official support no longer provided (at least not for free), but the veteran OS could live on if Microsoft released it as open source.

That’s the demand – and it is a demand, not a suggestion – from the Free Software Foundation (FSF), which has issued a petition calling for Microsoft to ‘upcycle’ Windows 7 by turning it open source.

After all, Microsoft is huge on everything open source these days, right? It’s all about open source, listening to user feedback, and acting on it.

The feedback from FSF might raise a few hackles at Microsoft, though, as the wording of the petition is, shall we say, on the strong and blunt side.

It reads: “On January 14th, Windows 7 reached its official ‘end-of-life,’ bringing an end to its updates as well as its ten years of poisoning education, invading privacy, and threatening user security. The end of Windows 7’s lifecycle gives Microsoft the perfect opportunity to undo past wrongs, and to upcycle it instead.

“We call on them to release it as free software, and give it to the community to study and improve. As there is already a precedent for releasing some core Windows utilities as free software, Microsoft has nothing to lose by liberating a version of their operating system that they themselves say has ‘reached its end.’”

And FSF further directly addresses Microsoft executives to “demand that Windows 7 be released as free software”, and urges them “to respect the freedom and privacy of your users – not simply strongarm them into the newest Windows version.”

Nothing to lose?

Of course, the truth is that making Windows 7 open source would be an unprecedented and radical move, and there are obvious problems with this idea.

FSF might insist that Microsoft has ‘nothing to lose’, but that’s not really the case, is it?

Microsoft could obviously potentially lose users who will soon – or eventually – upgrade to Windows 10 (if they don’t look entirely elsewhere for an OS).

And remember that Microsoft is still making money from Windows 7, by charging for extended support beyond end-of-life (business users can get an extra year of support with certain versions of Windows 7, and there’s a scheme that allows companies to pay for additional support on top of that). 

Moreover, there would be obvious dangers for Windows 10 in such an endeavor, because a good deal of Windows 7 code was carried on into Microsoft’s most recent OS, of course.

In short, there’s vanishingly-little-to-no-chance of this actually happening, in spite of how many signatures the petition might end up gathering – with the tally currently standing at just over 1,000. FSF wants to get 7,777 supporters on board, and that might just happen as word of the petition spreads.

But no matter how much Microsoft might be pushing the angle that it wants to work with open source projects across all fronts, in all kinds of different ways, Windows 7 being opened up to all and sundry just isn’t going to happen.

Via The Register

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