Deepfake videos explained: The good and bad of this technology marvel

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By now, you have probably seen or heard of a deepfake video. If not, go to YouTube and look up deepfake.

You will find realistic videos with Jerry Seinfeld in the movie ‘Pulp Fiction’, Tom Selleck in ‘Indiana Jones’ and even Barrack Obama making statements he clearly would never say in real life.

A deepfake video is when a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness. The process is made possible using artificial intelligence (AI) to manipulate and edit videos. Deepfakes can be used to create realistic and convincing videos of people saying or doing things they never actually said or did.

This magic is performed by training a deep learning model on a large number of images or videos of a target individual. By learning the intricate details of a person’s facial features, mannerisms, and voice, the deepfake algorithms can generate a convincing simulation of the individual’s actions and speech.

Deepfake videos can be used for various purposes, the most apparent field being entertainment. Deepfakes can create realistic visual effects, replacing the need for expensive and time-consuming CGI. Filmmakers could digitally de-age actors, resurrect deceased performers, or even translate films into different languages using the original actors’ lip movements. For example, Harrison Ford has been de-aged for the first part of the latest ‘Indiana Jones’ saga.

Other uses include education, where deepfake videos can create educational content, such as historical reenactments or simulations. Or video conferencing, where users could be given the ability to customise their appearance in real-time. And in research, deepfake technology can be used for research purposes, such as studying facial expressions or human behaviour.

There are, of course, security risks associated with deep fake technology. The technology can be used to spread disinformation.

The Obama video on YouTube will give you an idea of its effectiveness. Then they are the more obvious hacker-type usages of the technology.

The technology can be used for identity theft; using it with Zoom or Skype calls could have someone else impersonating you. This could lead to financial fraud, coercion or blackmail.

So while these videos can be fun to watch, keep in mind a couple of things to protect yourself from being deceived.

If you see someone appearing to do something out of character, it is probably a deep fake. While the technology is improving rapidly, you can still sense something is not right while watching them.

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