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OpenAI on the defensive after multiple PR setbacks in one week

Enlarge (credit: Benj Edwards | Getty Images)

Since the launch of its latest AI language model, GPT-4o, OpenAI has found itself on the defensive over the past week due to a string of bad news, rumors, and ridicule circulating on traditional and social media. The negative attention is potentially a sign that OpenAI has entered a new level of public visibility—and is more prominently receiving pushback to its AI approach beyond tech pundits and government regulators.

OpenAI’s rough week started last Monday when the company previewed a flirty AI assistant with a voice seemingly inspired by Scarlett Johansson from the 2013 film Her. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman alluded to the film himself on X just before the event, and we had previously made that comparison with an earlier voice interface for ChatGPT that launched in September 2023.

While that September update included a voice called “Sky” that some have said sounds like Johansson, it was GPT-4o’s seemingly lifelike new conversational interface, complete with laughing and emotionally charged tonal shifts, that led to a widely circulated Daily Show segment ridiculing the demo for its perceived flirty nature. Next, a Saturday Night Live joke reinforced an implied connection to Johansson’s voice.

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