Nvidia Just Invented an AI That Creates Photorealistic Fake Celebrities
In the 2002 sci-fi movie Simone, an ambitious movie director creates an entirely fake CGI actress to play a starring role in a movie. The simulation is so convincing that this character, Simulation One (S1MONE), soon becomes a global sensation.
Sixteen years ago, such a concept seemed confined to the realms of fantasy. There was no way that computer-generated images could possibly gain the complexity to adequately fool the human eye, as every possible attempt was resigned to the scrapheap of Uncanny Valley.
It's not 2002 anymore. Computer hardware manufacturer Nvidia has published a paper that shows off the complexity of their fledgling artificial intelligence chip. In order to prove the chip's prowess, the company has created a series of completely fake photographs of fictional celebrities that look so believable it's scary.
What's also scary is the way these faces melt and merge together in Nvidia's video showing off the creation process. This six-minute clip is pure nightmare fuel.
Artificial intelligence is getting pretty good at breaking down large folders of images and figuring out patterns within them. Machine learning allows computers to play connect the dots over thousands or even millions of points of data, extrapolating the connective trends that can be found within these files, and then generating new data that matches what the AI has managed to learn.
The result, in this case, is a series of photorealistic famous people that you've never heard of. The computer program starts small, with 1024 x 1024 pixel images that contain vague colors and shapes that are common in celebrity photos. From there, the system refines its creations, increasing the resolution and very slowly painting more complex faces that take inspiration from real celebrities (sometimes mashed together into terrifying abominations along the way to completion), creating all new faces that look suspiciously familiar, but that you can't quite put a name to.
This process is very slow—the video showing the computer chip processing these faces measures time in days, as the program carefully crafts believable people. The result is hard to argue with - these faces do genuinely look like they could be wandering around on a red carpet somewhere, making polite small talk with eager journalists.
One has to wonder what would happen if this computational technology were pitted against similar facial recognition software - could this program, for example, given enough time, manage to unlock an iPhone X without knowing what the owner looks like?
Considering that the video also shows off the software being used to synthesize a bunch of more everyday images, this process could be used to fool both computers and people in other situations. It's hard not to imagine the negative sides of this - the opportunities for fraud that are possible when a computer can spontaneously create whatever picture a person might need in order to con someone out of some money.
Just be careful the next time you buy something on eBay—and definitely. don't believe the advertisements in glossy magazines.
Photoshop is old hat now. AI will be the new tool for selling you a false idea of peak human perfection.