In the age of deepfakes, could virtual actors put humans out of business?

In film and video games, weve already seen whats possible with digital humans. Are we on the brink of the worlds first totally virtual acting star?

When youre watching a modern blockbuster such as The Avengers, its hard to escape the feeling that what youre seeing is almost entirely computer-generated imagery, from the effects to the sets to fantastical creatures. But if theres one thing you can rely on to be 100% real, its the actors. We might have virtual pop stars like Hatsune Miku, but there has never been a world-famous virtual film star.


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Even that link with corporeal reality, though, is no longer absolute. You may have already seen examples of whats possible: Peter Cushing (or his image) appearing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story more than 20 years after his death, or Tupac Shakur performing from beyond the grave at Coachella in 2012. Weve seen the terrifying potential of deepfakes manipulated footage that could play a dangerous role in the fake news phenomenon. Jordan Peeles remarkable fake Obama video is a key example. Could technology soon make professional actors redundant?

Like most of the examples above, the virtual Tupac is a digital human, and was produced by special effects company Digital Domain. Such technology is becoming more and more advanced. Darren Hendler, the companys digital human group director, explains that it is in effect a digital prosthetic like a suit that a real human has to wear.

The most important thing in creating any sort of digital human is getting that performance. Somebody needs to be behind it, he explains. There is generally [someone] playing the part of the deceased person. Somebody thats going to really study their movements, facial tics, their body motions.

The most important thing in creating a digital human is getting that performance … digital Tupac Shakur at Coachella in 2012. Photograph: Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Digital and digitally altered humans are commonplace in modern cinema. Recent examples include de-aging actors such as Samuel L Jackson in Captain Marvel, and Sean Youngs image in Blade Runner 2049. And you can almost guarantee the use of digital humans in any modern story-led video game: motion-captured actors give their characters lifelike movement and facial expressions.

Hendler stresses that the performers skill will make or break any digital human, which is little use without a real person wearing it as a second skin. Virtual humans, on the other hand, could operate autonomously, their speech and expressions driven by AI. Their development and use is often restricted to research projects, and therefore not visible to the public, but perhaps that will change soon.

Thanks to funding from the UK governments Audience of the Future programme, Maze Theory will be leading development on a virtual reality game based on the BBC show Peaky Blinders. As CEO Ian Hambleton explains, the use of AI narrative characters promises a brand new experience. For example, if you get really aggressive and in the face of a character, they will react; and they will change not only what theyre saying, but their body language, their facial expressions, he says. An AI black box will ultimately drive the performances.

Could we one day see aesthetically convincing digital humans combined with the AI-driven virtual humans to produce entirely artificial actors? That, theoretically, could lead to performances without the need for human actors at all. Yuri Lowenthal, an actor whose work includes the title role in PS4 game Spider-Man, wonders: Your everyday person is not in the business of voluntarily having their data captured on a large-scale like I am. When people record all the data from my performances, and details of my face and my voice, what does the future look like? How long will it be before you could create a performance out of nothing?


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When people record all the data from my performances, what does the future look like? … Yuri Lowenthal as Spider-Man in the 2018 game. Photograph: Sony

Thats still pretty far away, says Hendler. Artificial intelligence is expanding so rapidly that its really hard for us to predict … I would say that within the next five to ten years, [well see] things that are able to construct semi-plausible versions of a full-facial performance.

Voice is also a consideration, says Arno Hartholt, director of research and development integration at the University of Southern Californias Institute for Creative Technologies, as it would be very difficult to artificially generate a new performance from clips of a real actors speech. You would have to do it as a library of performances, he says. You need a lot of examples, not only of how a voice sounds naturally, but how does it sound while its angry? Or maybe its a combination of angry and being hurt, or somebodys out of breath. The cadence of the speech.

Its not even as simple as collecting a huge amount of existing performance data because, as Hartholt goes on to point out, a range of characters played by the same actor wont produce a consistent data-set of their speech. The job of the human actor is safe for now, at least.

Nonetheless, Hendler believes that the advancement of digital and virtual human technology will become more visible to the public, coming much closer to home literally within the next 10 years or so: You may have a big screen on your wall and have your own personal virtual assistant that you can talk to and interact with: a virtual human thats got a face, and moves around the house with you. To your bed, your fridge, your stove, and to the games that youre playing.

A lot of this might sound pretty damn creepy, but elements of it have been coming for a while now.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

This post was curated & Posted using : RealSpecific

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