While politicians warn against deep-fake videos, they are just becoming a viral hit in China. The blame is on the app ZAO, which assembles the face of its users in well-known movie scenes. The scary thing about it: The manipulation can hardly be recognized as such, the algorithm only needs a photo of the user and a few seconds to create the deep-fake video. The app is officially only available in China, but on Twitter , the videos have caused a worldwide sensation. In case you have not heard, #ZAO is a Chinese app that has blown up completely since last Friday.
In case you haven't heard, #ZAO is a Chinese app which completely blew up since Friday. Best application of 'Deepfake'-style AI facial replacement I've ever seen.
Here's an example of me as DiCaprio (generated in under 8 secs from that one photo in the thumbnail) 🤯 pic.twitter.com/1RpnJJ3wgT
— Allan Xia (@AllanXia) September 1, 2019
ZAO seems to be capable of handling common montage problems: teeth look natural, the skin is not unnaturally smooth, the mouth movement is consistent and only rarely are the transitions between the user’s face and the protagonist’s body visible. The app only exchanges the face and thus it does not have to fight with the movement of the hair. And of course, you can not (yet) create those deep-fakes that make politicians tremble: the selection is limited to a few scenes from films or music videos.
But ZAO shows that it’s only a matter of time before really scary deep-fakes can be generated without technical knowledge, within seconds with a simple app.
Election manipulation with deep-fakes
Politicians regularly warn against such videos. They have what it takes to put democracy at risk, analysts say. Why? Because they make it possible to spread absolutely credible false reports that are opinion-forming and thus could influence election results. For example, in the early summer, a video by US Democrat Nancy Pelosi appears on the Internet. She seemed to be drunk at an official appearance. For an unequipped eye, it was not immediately visible that this was a fake. US President Donald Trump shared the video on Twitter.
ZAO adds another dimension. The app has been criticized for its user guidelines. The provider hereby secures the usage rights to all the videos that are created with the app. The owner Momo, a company specializing in dating apps, has announced to take the criticism seriously.