PC Magazine


AI algorithms can convincingly imitate human appearance and behavior—and that comes with profound implications, both positive and not.

Somewhere in the dark recesses of YouTube is a video that shows an excerpt from the movie The Fellowship of the Ring—but it’s not quite the movie you remember, since Nicolas Cage stars as Frodo, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gollum, all at the same time. Other videos show Cage in Terminator 2 as T2000, Star Trek as Captain Picard, and Superman as, well, Lois Lane.

Of course, Cage never played in any of those movies. They’re “deepfakes” produced with FakeApp, an application that uses artificial intelligence algorithms to swap faces in videos. Some of the deepfakes look quite convincing, while others have artifacts that betray their true nature. But overall, they show how powerful AI algorithms have become in imitating human appearance and behavior.

FakeApp is just one of several new AI-powered synthesizing tools. Other applications mimic human voices, handwriting, and conversation styles. And part of what makes them significant is that using them doesn’t require specialized hardware or skilled experts.

The impact of these applications is profound: They will create unprecedented opportunities for creativity, productivity, and communications. But the same tools can also open a Pandora’s box of fraud, forgery, and propaganda. Since it made an appearance on Reddit in January, FakeApp has been downloaded more than 100,000 times and has precipitated a storm of fake pornographic videos featuring celebrities and politicians. Reddit recently banned the application and its related communities from its platform.

“Ten years ago, if you wanted to fake something, you could, but you had to go to a VFX studio or people who could do computer graphics and possibly spend millions of dollars,” says Dr. Tom Haines, lecturer in machine learning at University of

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