Fake News is about to enter a world of simulation


James Joseph | January 9, 2018

How do we tell if anything is real anymore? It’s the question you might find yourself asking yourself at the end of this article. While Facebook has been fighting a fake news war, with many worried about the unsourced, fabricated written word, a new technology has been brewing.

In the last quarter of 2017 The University of Washington released a new development which quite frankly is simultaneously brilliant and disturbing. What the University has managed to create is face mapping lip sync to video, by just a single audio file.

In short, it’s now possible to make anyone say anything you wish, as long as there is a video of them, and an audio file of your choosing. The political and media implications are huge. Presidents of countries could be faked saying things that never uttered their lips. If we thought we already had a fake news problem, it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

This simulation technique might seem science-fiction. But what’s even more incredible, the Niessner Lab has gone one step further and can produce real-time facial mapping from an actor, on to a video clip. In the video below, an actor manipulates the facial expressions of George Bush and Donald Trump, among others.

Now this technology isn’t quite perfect yet. There are samples which can be told apart relatively simply. But to those scrolling distractedly through Facebook feeds, it’s certainly good enough. How to combat against this is certainly a difficult issue. If the tecnology improves by a factor of two, it could be quite possibly indistinguishable.

If we go on to think that Apple just managed to fit complete real-time facial mapping into the iPhone X. How long is it that technology like the above is mass-market? We could be just months away from seeing software that runs a basic version of Niessner Lab’s work on a smartphone.

Photo: Apple