Recently Samsung demonstrated a new capability to create video clips of people talking using just a single photo. An explanation video culminated in an example of a convincing talking Mona Lisa. It’s a significant step forward in deepfake technology.
Deepfake technology refers to using A.I. processes to swap a face onto another person’s body in a video. Face-swapping is easy in photographs, but much more difficult in videos, and usually requires many sample photos of a target face.
That restriction alone is why deepfake videos are usually of celebrities, such as a compilation of movies with Nicholas Cage inserted as main characters.
Samsung has taken the technology further. Instead of relying on many pictures of a person, they can now create video from a single image, or even a painting. It isn’t entirely convincing yet; you can easily see that something is off, but with just a few photos, the illusion starts to take hold. With time, the company will likely improve on the results as well.
The whole thing is fascinating and mildly terrifying. Any technology is a tool; you could use it for good or bad. Movie studios, for instance, use deepfake technology to seemingly bring actors back from the dead, as in “Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.” But we have the internet, so of course, the tech can be and is used for horrible things as well. It’s early days though, so don’t feel the need to pull all your photos off the internet just yet. [CNET]
In Other News:
The U.S. Senate passed a bill to curtail robocalling: Robocalling is the digital plague we all face. Have you stopped answering your phone altogether yet? A solution is still a long, long, long ways away, but at least there’s finally some traction. [MacRumors]
Google Duo rolls out group calling to everyone: After testing in some markets, Google is rolling out group calling to all Duo users. Now you can have up to eight people on the call, which is far less than FaceTime’s 32 max or Skype’s 50 max. Does anybody make 50 person group calls? [Engadget]
Amazon wants to scan your body: Are you in New York and have 30 minutes to spare? If you don’t mind filling out some surveys and letting a large corporation 3D scan your body (wearing “form-fitting swimwear” no less), you could score a $25 Amazon gift card. You might be asking why Amazon is doing this. That’s a pretty good question if you ask us. [Mashable]
Microsoft pulls Huawei from its cloud and laptop offerings: When it rains, it pours. Following Intel and Google’s decisions to stop Huawei partnerships, Microsoft has removed Huawei offerings from its cloud and consumer catalogs. You won’t find it mentioned on Azure sites or the Matebook X Pro offered in the Microsoft Store now. [Thurott]
ESET discovered a Google Play app designed to steal cryptocurrency: Bad actors created a convincing fake app of Trezor, a legitimate hardware cryptocurrency wallet some people use. It’s a basic phishing scheme, you download it, input credentials, and now the bad actors have your info. Over a thousand people downloaded the app before Google removed it. Maybe avoid
apps anything with crypto in the description. [TechCrunch]
AT&T now lets you pay in cryptocurrency: Then again, apparently you can pay for your phone service with crypto? The company is now accepting payments through Bitpay, another cryptocurrency processor. It’s anybody’s guess how long before AT&T changes its mind. [The Block]
Amazon may be working on an emotion tracking Alexa gadget: Based on some patents and “sources,” Amazon may be working on a wearable that knows how you feel. The proof of concept shows an Echo that notices someone sick and offering chicken soup and cough drops. There’s not much to go on here, and Amazon isn’t commenting. So file this under “may never happen.” [Gizmodo]
Amazon patent shows more natural wake-work language: If you’ve ever thought it’s weird to start every command with “Alexa” an Amazon patent is thinking of you. Basically, the idea is to look let you say “turn off the lights, Alexa” and the Echo could look back a few seconds from the wake-work for a command. This is just a patent though, so also file this under “may never happen.” [Engadget]
Google’s Search, Maps, and Assistant apps make ordering food easier: We’ve all decided last minute to give in to a craving for Chinese food. The first step is to search for a local restaurant and find the menu and number. Google wants to make that easier, so now you can order straight from the very apps you used to find the restaurant. Nice! Now it’s time to order some General Tso’s. [Digital Trends]
If you have a telescope, you should get it out this weekend. An asteroid is on course to make a close flyby to the Earth Saturday night, though not quite so close you can see it with the naked eye.
But this is no ordinary asteroid; it has a moon. Asteroid 1999 KW4 is about a mile wide, and its moon is about .3 miles wide. Binary objects like this don’t pass near the Earth often—scientists even say it’s one of the closest flybys in recent history.
If you miss your chance to catch a glimpse this weekend, you’ll have to wait until 2036 to try again. And don’t worry, the dynamic duo shouldn’t get any closer than 3 million miles away, so no need to pack up for Armageddon. At least not this weekend. [Futurism]