data
Privacy concern (Representational picture) Pixabay

Morphed images and videos that appear "perfectly real" in everyday life will be accessible to people within six months or a year, computer graphics entrepreneur Hao Li has said. The revolutionary technique may bother the fact checkers but for animation films it may be a game changer soon.

"In some ways, we already know how to do it, but it is only a matter of training with more data and implementation" to make manipulated graphics appear real, the Taiwanese descent deepfake pioneer said.

The technology of "deepfake" – the process to manipulate videos or digital representation using computers and machine-learning software to make them appear real, even though they are not – has given rise to concerns about how these creations could cause confusion and propagate misinformation, especially in the context of global politics.

"It's still very easy, you can tell from the naked eye most of the deepfakes," CNBC quoted Li, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Southern California, as arguing.

He, however, added that there were examples that were "really, really convincing", that required "sufficient effort" to create them.

"Soon, there will be no way that we can actually detect [deepfakes] anymore, so we have to look at other types of solutions," he asserted and added academic research was important in this direction.

Misinformation through morphed images and videos targeted at social media platforms such as Facebook and Whatsapp have already roiled elections around the world, including India, Indonesia, and Brazil.

According to Li, recent developments, particularly the emergence of popular Chinese app Zao, and the growing research focus made him "recalibrate" the time to within months or "a year", following his appearance at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology conference where he said perfect deepfakes would arrive in "two to three years".

Zao, a face-swapping app that allows users to insert their photographs into popular TV shows and movies, has led to privacy concerns across the world.

"If you want to be able to detect deepfakes, you have to also see what the limits are," Li explained, noting his work on deepfake detection with another University of California professor Hany Farid.

He said that if people wanted to build AI frameworks capable of detecting things that seem "extremely real", they had to be trained using these types of technologies. "In some ways, it's impossible to detect those if you don't know how they work."

The artist said deepfake technology, whose existence in itself is not the issue, could present numerous benefits to the fashion and entertainment industries, as well as, enhance the efficacy of video conferencing.

Li recently demonstrated the advancement of deepfakes at the MIT tech conference when he portrayed a real-time interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The technology already made headlines when it was used to show a Game of Thrones character apologizing for the disappointing final season and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appearing to admit that he controlled "billions of people's data".