For those who fear a future where real-person videos are indistinguishable from fake computer-generated videos, two recent developments that have attracted millions of audiences may seem alarming.
First, a visual effects artist worked with the impersonator Tom Cruise to create amazingly accurate videos of the actor. The videos, created with the help of machine learning techniques and known as deepfakes, gained millions of views on TikTok, Twitter and other social networks by the end of February.
Then, a few days later, MyHeritage, the most famous genealogy website for the identity of Golden State Killer, provided a tool to digitally effect old photos of loved ones. love, create a short, repeatable video that everyone can see. their heads move and even smile. More than 26 million images have been animated using a tool called Deep Nostalgia, as of Monday, the company said.
The videos raise attention to the potential of synthetic media, which can lead to significant improvements in the advertising and entertainment industries. But the technology can also be used – and was – to raise suspicion of legitimate videos and insert people, including children, into pornographic images.
The creators of viral TikToks Tom Cruise said the expertise needed to use the technology made abuse much more difficult, and the company behind the animation tool said it has come up with protective measures. protection to prevent abuse. Experts say these two examples are not too alarming – but they raise questions about the future of technology that should be considered while it is still in its infancy.
Sam Gregory, program director at Witness, a nonprofit focused on the use of video and an expert in artificial intelligence, said: “Although Deep Nostalgia itself is harmless, it is Be part of this very high threat toolkit.
Mr. Cruise’s digital imitations have not been an easy feat. Chris Ume, the visual effects artist in Belgium who has created the videos, said in an interview that they require a lot of time and expertise.
Most of what you see in the video is the body and voice of Miles Fisher, a Tom Cruise impersonator who has mastered the actor’s manners and sounds and has a very similar appearance even without. manipulation. Only the real Tom Cruise face, from forehead to chin, is shown in the video.
He spent two months training his computer model to create Mr. Cruise’s facial expressions, first having it video random faces before focusing on Mr. Cruise. Mr. Ume spent about 24 hours producing one-minute video each, fine-tuning details like eye alignment.
Even as technology improves, videos like his will require a lot of manual work and skilled impersonators, he said.
“It was like a little studio in Hollywood for the two of us,” he said. “Pressing a button is not something you can do on a home computer.”
The Deep Nostalgia engine was created for MyHeritage by D-ID, an artificial intelligence company based in Tel Aviv. Gil Perry, D-ID’s chief executive, says the company only works with partners they can trust so as not to abuse the technology and has a four-year relationship with MyHeritage.
Videos created with this tool have a watermark to indicate that they are bogus and that the video does not include sound, a decision Mr. Perry said makes using them for unprofitable purposes more difficult. .
The technology that powers Deep Nostalgia “is just the tip of the iceberg of what we can do,” he said.
“The potential for a good part of this technology is endless,” he said.
When optimists talk about a technology’s potential strengths, they often point to its use in advocacy, where it can solve problems and create deep emotional connections. sharper.
An NGO created a video of Javier Arturo Valdez Cárdenas, a Mexican journalist murdered in 2017 in which he appeared to call for justice for his own murder. The parents of Joaquin Oliver, a 17-year-old young man murdered in a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., In 2018, have digitally revived him thanks to a video advertising law gun safety. Australian Victoria Police used a suicide cop in 2012 to deliver a message about mental health support.
And “Welcome to Chechnya,” a documentary released last year about the purges against gay and lesbian in Chechnya, used this technology to protect the identities of Chechen people. are in danger.
These effects can also be used in Hollywood to improve the age or age of actors, or to improve the dubbing of movies and TV shows in different languages, to adjust closely match the movements of the lips with on-screen language. Executives of international companies can also look more natural when interacting with employees who speak different languages.
But critics fear the technology will be abused even more as it improves, especially to create pornography that puts one’s face on another’s.
Nina Schick, author of “Deepfakes: The Coming Infocalypse”, says the first nudity took hours of video to produce, so celebrities are the typical target. But as technology becomes more advanced, less content will be needed to create videos, putting more women and children at risk.
According to BuzzFeed News, a tool on the messaging app Telegram allows users to create a simulated nudity from an uploaded photo that has been used hundreds of thousands of times.
“This is going to be an issue that can affect everyone, especially those who don’t have the resources to protect themselves,” Schick said.
The technology can also have a destabilizing effect on global problems, as politicians assume that videos, including real ones, are fake to gain the advantage that attorneys professors Robert. Chesney and Danielle Citron have called the “liar’s dividends”.
In Gabon, opposition leaders claim that the video of President Ali Bongo Ondimba giving his 2019 New Year speech is fake to cover up health issues. Last year, a Republican candidate for a House seat in the St. Petersburg area. Louis claims that the video of George Floyd’s death in police custody was digitally staged.
According to Mr. Gregory, an expert on artificial intelligence, as technology develops, it will be used more widely, but its effects are already evident.
“People are always trying to think of the perfect deepfake when it’s not necessary for harmful or beneficial use,” he said.
When introducing the Deep Nostalgia tool, MyHeritage resolved the consent issue, asking users to “please use this feature on your own historical photo, not on pictures with people living without them. allow”. Mr. Ume, who has created Mr. Cruise’s poignant works, said he has no connection with the actor or his agent.
Of course, those who died were unable to agree to appear in the video. And that’s important if dead people – especially celebrities – can be digitally revived, like artist Bob Ross who sold Mountain Dew, or like last year’s Robert Kardashian in a gift. to daughter Kim Kardashian West from her husband, Kanye West.
Henry Ajder, a deepfakes researcher, envisioned a future in which our own voices could be used with assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, allowing us to stay connected with loved ones. after death. Or, as set out in an episode of “Black Mirror”, our entire personality aspect can be simulated after death, trained with our voice on social media.
But that raises a conundrum, he says: “Under what circumstances do we need the consent of the deceased to come back to life?”
“These questions make you feel uncomfortable, something a little wrong or worrying, but it’s hard to tell if it’s just because it’s new or it gives you a deeper intuition about something. That’s the problem, ”said Mr. Ajder.