Generate faces automagically

Artificial intelligence passes a point of no return

If you are living under a rock for the past two years, I want to remind you the site https://thispersondoesnotexist.com made some news back in 2018 with its ability to generate realistic human faces using generative adversarial neural networks (GANs), a type of machine learning technique which is a subset of artificial intelligence.

Every time you reload the site, it generates a brand new human face in real-time, using a sophisticated algorithm developed by researchers at Nvidia. Over time, with lots of training and newer versions of the GANs, the algorithm has become so good that no average human can distinguish between real and fake faces such as the ones below.

How does it work?

The simple explanation is that an artificial intelligence algorithm was trained on a large set of photos and then learned what makes human faces unique, such as two eyes, one mouth, a nose, two ears, hair, and their respective locations. The GAN was able to pick the nuances of human faces and recreate them on the fly. These are not photoshopped faces, they are a pure expression of applied math through random pixels that look like faces.

The same technique can be used to generate anything from horses, cars, or even Airbnb rooms. Take a look at the video below explaining the technique:

Why should you care about this?

The level of progress in this area of machine learning has been exponential and very soon everything that exists could and will be faked super easily and cheaply. So paying ten times more attention to what you receive from non-trusted sources (such as your crazy uncle on Whatsapp or Facebook) will be necessary.

Another consequence of this technology is that many professional models who lend their faces or bodies to publicity campaigns will lose their jobs. Even photographers may be in peril as recreating any image such as a sunset, forest, bird, or an urban environment could be done artificially using the technique with better results. It's Not a Matter of 'If,' It's a matter of 'When'.

The flip side is that artificial intelligence can now help small businesses and ordinary persons to hire digital models or even virtual actors they haven't dreamt of before, for free!

This area of research will explode in the next decades and many tools and practical applications will be created using this technology or to protect us against it. If you are studying or leaning towards computer science, this is one of the hottest fields out there.

Leave a comment