ChatGPT fans are furious as OpenAI delays rollout of next-gen Voice Mode

A hand holding a phone showing the ChatGPT voice mode
(Image credit: OpenAI)

Ever since OpenAI showed off ChatGPT's new Voice Mode – and incurred the wrath of Scarlett Johansson – fans of the AI assistant have been desperate to take the feature for a spin. Well, they'll have to wait a little longer, as OpenAI says its advanced Voice Mode has now been delayed.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), OpenAI said that Alpha testing for its startlingly lifelike Voice Mode has been pushed back a month so it can focus on "improving the user experience" and also its "ability to detect and refuse certain content." In other words, it's still not quite ready for the questionable requests the real world might throw at it.

So when exactly will the Voice Mode be pushed out beyond this initial "small group of users"? OpenAI says, "We are planning for all Plus users to have access in the fall." But there's a slightly worrying caveat that "exact timelines depend on meeting our high safety and reliability bar." Further delays, then, could well be on the cards.

This is all a far cry from OpenAI's previous rollout plans. When it demoed the new Voice Mode in May at its Spring event, it said the feature would "be rolling out in the coming weeks." That's still technically true, but the reality is that it'll now be more like months.

Delays for new tech features aren't exactly new, but ChatGPT subscribers aren't happy. "Biggest rug pull in history," concluded one X commenter, with others stating that the huge demo "was probably misleading to many" and that they'd also cancel their Plus account until it actually rolls out. 

A casualty of the AI arms race

Interview roleplay with GPT-4o voice and vision - YouTube Interview roleplay with GPT-4o voice and vision - YouTube
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The outpouring of frustration from ChatGPT fans about this Voice Mode delay might seem disproportional, but it's also understandable. An unfortunate side effect of the AI arms race is the staging of whizz-bang demos with optimistic roll-outs, followed by delays and vague promises of launches in the 'coming weeks' or, even worse, 'coming months.'

OpenAI's explanation of the delays to ChatGPT's most exciting new feature are certainly reasonable on the surface. As it explains in its statement, the new Voice Mode takes us closer to real-time, natural conversations with AI chatbots – and that is a potentially dangerous tool if it goes off the rails in the wild.

Then again, the timing of OpenAI's Spring update event – on May 13, just a day before Google IO 2024 – did seem conveniently designed to steal some thunder from Google's AI announcements. So, the theories that ChatGPT's new voice was demoed a little prematurely do have some credence.

Still, with OpenAI releasing several demo videos (like the one above) on its YouTube channel of the new Voice Mode (with the controversial 'Sky' voice, following Scarlett Johansson's complaints that it sounded a little too much like her AI character in Her), suggest it's far from marketing vaporware.

ChatGPT also remains one of the best AI tools around without it, despite increasing pressure from the likes of Claude's new 3.5 Sonnet model

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Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at both TechRadar and Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.