A big delay.

Date With Disaster

There's heartbreak in the buzzing world of AI, because legions of lonely OpenAI fans have just been stood up by, well, "Her."

The company first teased the expressive — and flirty? — Voice Mode assistant for ChatGPT, which could engage in bubbly, real-time conversations and even read facial expressions, back in May.

At the time, the feature was expected to roll out in an alpha test to a select group of paid ChatGPT Plus subscribers by June.

But now, in an announcement on X-formerly-Twitter, OpenAI says its Voice Mode needs one more month "to reach our bar to launch," with a wider launch to all Plus subscribers in the fall — a move that's led to even more controversy around the AI assistant.

Saying No

Some of the stated reasons for the delay are boilerplate. OpenAI said, in vague terms, that it's "improving the user experience," as well as readying its infrastructure to handle the incoming millions of users who will eventually engage with Voice Mode.

Another reason that it snuck in, though, could raise eyebrows: OpenAI is also, cryptically, "improving the model's ability to detect and refuse certain content."

That sounds like the Voice Mode is prone to some bad behavior and could constitute a far deeper safety — or "alignment," in the AI sector's euphemistic parlance — problem that has plagued chatbots in general, where they spout inappropriate or dangerous content either unprompted or at the deliberate request of a user. (We won't rule out people simply being horny with it, either.)

Troubled Project

Regardless of the reasons, fans aren't happy. Some have characterized the delay as a "rug pull," after paying for a ChatGPT Plus subscription on OpenAI's initial promise that Voice Mode would be coming down the pipe in "the coming weeks." Others have speculated that the promising demos we saw in May were misleadingly overblown — which wouldn't be unprecedented.

But more generally, most have simply mocked OpenAI's failure to ship a product. Its rival Anthropic, in the meantime, has just released a blockbuster new update to its chatbot Claude, now Claude 3.5.

It's an unenviable position for OpenAI. The company was already battered, just last month, by controversy surrounding one of the voices for Voice Mode. Many thought that it bore an uncanny resemblance to actress Scarlett Johansson's role in the movie "Her," in which she portrays a chirpy AI assistant that a lonely man falls in love with. OpenAI removed the voice — but only just before Johansson's publicly excoriated the company.

With this latest delay, which is apparently unrelated to that PR disaster, OpenAI has only set up itself for further scrutiny, while leaving fans even more disappointed.

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