Outsourcing tasks to your digital deepfake

When I wrote a note on deepfakes last year, I was merely looking at it from the perspective of disinformation.

But, besides perpetuating disinformation (and misinformation), it is heading in a really interesting direction that is not so bad (though still questionable) – corporate deepfakes!

The most fun use of deepfake that I have seen recently is in the marketing of the new Hollywood film, ‘Reminiscence’. Hugh Jackman plays Nick Bannister, a scientist who discovers a technology through which you can relive your memories from the past!

To promote the film, the makers of the film have created an interactive website that asks you to upload just your photo and they animate that photo as a teaser for the movie that also features Hugh Jackman! It is adequately freaky and when I showed my teaser to my family, they were shocked to see me alongside Hugh Jackman till I explained what was going on 🙂

You can get your own deepfake alongside Hugh Jackman too – just head to the Bannister and Associates website 🙂

This is a consumer-grade deepfake made for a genuinely entertaining purpose and helps build interest in the product (the film) with great context (since the movie’s theme is so well tied to this campaign idea.

A professional version of this has also happened! Bruce Willis seems to have become the first A-list star who has licensed his deepfake image rights for advertisements. A new series of ads for Russian mobile service brand MegaFon has deepfake-Bruce acting alongside Russian comedian Azamat Musagaliev!

But, beyond entertainment, deepfakes are entering an unusual segment, far removed from marketing or movies – business!

NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang recently delivered a keynote address as part of the launch of the company’s Omniverse platform for creating and animating 3D models in a virtual space. A brief part of the keynote had a digitally created version of Jensen. To be entirely sure, it shows, since it looks clunky (0:25 to 0:37).

But another effort on similar lines looks considerably more interesting!

A London-based company called Synthesia is offering corporate-grade deepfake technology to outsource your likeness to a digital avatar and use it for digital video communications! Imagine getting your digital version to talk through a presentation online, and that too, in multiple languages!

That’s precisely what EY is trying, according to WIRED magazine! Unlike the existing avatars from Synthesis, EY is using their own partners’ avatars to create talking-head videos!

“They spice up client presentations or routine emails with synthetic talking-head-style video clips starring virtual body doubles of themselves made with AI software—a corporate spin on a technology commonly known as deepfakes.

The firm’s exploration of the technology, provided by UK startup Synthesia, comes as the pandemic has quashed more traditional ways to cement business relationships. Golf and long lunches are tricky or impossible, Zoom calls and PDFs all too routine.

EY partners have used their doubles in emails, and to enhance presentations. One partner who does not speak Japanese used the translation function built into Synthesia’s technology to display his AI avatar speaking the native language of a client in Japan, to apparently good effect.”

EY does this openly, by declaring that the clients/audiences are seeing a deepfake version of the person, so there’s no subterfuge or faking intended.

Right now, understandably, the corporate deepfake version of you can only speak pre-fed lines. But imagine when you combine this idea with OpenAI’s GPT-3 language generator! When both technologies mature, it almost feels like you could be playing with your kids while your digital avatar takes an office call on Zoom!

In a way, in the offline world too, that seems to be a direction Elon Musk just presented! Tesla is planning on building friendly humanoid robots that we can use to perform boring and routine tasks, like grocery runs!

Is this the start of humankind paving the way to outsource tasks to our digital likeness or an offline humanoid so that we could pursue other things in life? 🙂

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