Lucy Richards
3 minute read

Before we go any further, watch this video:


Scary isn’t it?

Researchers at the University of Washington have produced a photo-realistic former US President Barack Obama. They have used Artificial intelligence (AI) to precisely mirror how Barack Obama moves his mouth when he speaks. This technique allows them to put any words into his mouth and create an unbelievably convincing public announcement.

The reason for Obama being the chosen candidate for this work is down to the countless hours of high-definition video of him available across the web. The research team had an artificial neural network analyse millions of frames of video to note how Obama’s facial features moved as he was talking; putting most of the focus on his mouth.

Over time, this neural network will learn what mouth shapes were linked to various sounds, thus creating an AI strategy that mimics the human brain.

This technology, and the successful results, suggests that anyone could be a model for this in the future, so long as there are images/video of them present on the internet.

A potential positive use for this new technology is improving videoconferencing by incorporating AR and VR, says study co-author Ira Kemelmacher-Shlizerman at the University of Washington. This is due to teleconferencing video feeds currently freezing, talking out of sync and performing in low-resolution; so instead, this new technology can simply transmit audio from people and use this software to reconstruct what they might look like when they talk.

A clear negative from this, is being able to clarify its authenticity. The tech savvy generation would be able to identify that this video was not real; Obama is somewhat emotionless and when Obama tilted his face away from the camera, the imperfect 3D modelling caused parts of his mouth to get superimposed outside the face and onto the background.

However, the older generations that haven’t grown up with the rapid sophistication of technology, would take this video at face value. Hence believing what is being said and reacting before even finding the source. Think about today, how many times has your auntie/uncle shared a post on Facebook and declared their outrage; only to find it was completely staged. The study lead author Supasorn Suwajanakorn, stated this ‘fake news’ will be in the form of public figures in the future; pushing the agendas that the creators want to publicise.  

With great advancements in technology comes great responsibility and legislation. The researchers on this study have already started on working out ways to detect if a video is real or fake through blurring the mouth and teeth, with other techniques too.

So, we say to embrace the future and not be afraid of it.

Lucy Richards

Lucy Richards

Marketing Manager
Lucy is the Marketing Manager at Digital First, she focuses on social media management, content creation and branding. She previously worked in the investment banking industry for over two years, but decided to pursue her dreams of travel and marketing; and emigrated to Melbourne, Australia. She graduated from the Glasgow Caledonian University in 2014 with a Bachelors degree in Entertainment and Events Management.