A.I.’s ‘Her’ Era Has Arrived

A lifelike artificial intelligence with a smooth, alluring voice enchants and impresses its human users — flirting, telling jokes, fulfilling their desires and eventually winning them over.

I’m summarizing the plot of the 2013 movie “Her,” in which a lonely introvert named Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is seduced by a virtual assistant named Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

But I might as well be describing the scene on Monday when OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, showed off an updated version of its A.I. voice assistant at an event in San Francisco.

The company’s new model, called GPT-4o (the o stands for “omni”) will let ChatGPT talk to users in a much more lifelike way — detecting emotions in their voices, analyzing their facial expressions and changing its own tone and cadence depending on what a user wants. If you ask for a bedtime story, it can lower its voice to a whisper. If you need advice from a sassy friend, it can speak in a playful, sarcastic tone. It can even sing on command.

The new voice feature, which ChatGPT users will be able to start using for free in the coming weeks, immediately drew comparisons to Samantha from “Her.” (Sam Altman, OpenAI’s chief executive, who has praised the movie, posted its title on X after Monday’s announcement, making the connection all but official.)

On social media, users hailed the arrival of an A.I. voice assistant that will finally understand them, or at least pretend that it does.

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