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Deepfake...the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

What if someone could fake your identity, not on paper with a fake I.D., but on a video as if you would’ve taken a video yourself?

That is what deepfake technology is capable of doing. It is a very interesting technology that has been out for many years, but is just recently taking popularity in the masses because of recent developments in the technology world. Although it comes with obvious downsides and controversies, deepfake is an astounding technology that will find its place in the technology world as it starts to become accepted and a staple to work environments.

Deepfakes work by using the processing power of modern-day computers. Unlike Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) that uses hundred and thousands of man hours to generate cinematic material, deepfakes work through the use of machine learning which makes it even more hardware dependent. Machine learning is covered in a little more in depth on one of our earlier blogs at our website if you’d like to learn more.

A creator will use machine learning technology to train a computer to recognize faces under different circumstances like lighting and angles. By doing this, the computer has an understanding of human facial structures. It is then able to use that information to process a face, and even a body sometimes, that looks almost indistinguishable to a real human face. This takes a lot of processing and computing power since all of the work is done by the machine.

That is why deepfakes have become a recent trend; modern-day computers are becoming more powerful by the year. Once the project is processed, it can be stitched on top of someone’s face on another video to make it seem like actual recorded video footage.

How does deepfaking ease faking someone’s identity? By using the method described above, a creator can feed video or picture footage of someone to a machine learning program. After hours of the computer studying the face, in combination with other facial data that it has acquired in the past of other faces, the computer is able to replicate the face in different facial expressions; it can even learn to replicate the movements of the head, lips, eyes, and tongue to make it move and look like the real thing. The more powerful the hardware, the more accurate replica of a face can be made.

With more powerful and efficient machines, the algorithms can put a heavier load on the hardware to make a even more accurate depictions of the face. Ever improving technology is making better footage generation more possible and readily available to the public.

Just like every new technology, its ethics becomes a big topic of discussion. How people use the technology have made deepfakes a topic of heavy controversy. With its accuracy, the technology has the ability of becoming a harmful tool. In recent years, deepfakes have resulted in many degrading videos of influential people. Users across the internet have used deepfake unethically by using faces of politicians and popular celebrity on footage that never occurred. Such is the case by stitching their faces on pornographic films and videos where they are made to say speeches that will anger the public and cause them to lose followers and supporters.

However, deepfakes do have some useful case scenarios. With the ability to analyze faces and reproduce an indistinguishable one, deepfakes are able to be used as tools for the good of the public as well.

For example, the technology can be used to identify criminals. If a subject is able to identify key features of someone’s face, such as their nose shape, eyebrows, and mouth, a computer algorithm could produce a multitude of faces that a subject can identify. It can then be matched with the identity of a possible culprit. It can even be used in the cinematic world by helping fill in scenes where the actor/actress could not do a stunt or had to sit out of the set for injuries. It can replicate an actors face more cost effectively by reducing man hours required to replicate it via CGI.

Technology can be a double-edged sword.

On one side it is an irreplaceable tool that can be used to help improve the lives of everyone through utility. However, when unregulated it can be detrimental to individuals and a population as a whole. Due to how new the technology is, there are bound to be instances where people misuse the technology for their own personal gain.

But once the technology becomes more manageable to limit its malpractice, it has a lot of advantages. It can even be used to prank friends or co-workers as long as it is used with respect to others.

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