Machine learning and AI have definitely made some impact in today’s society but none more so than their potential for abuse. Never mind chatbots, deepfakes are the new media darling when it comes to demonstrating how such technology could be used to spread misinformation. Perhaps trying to defuse the tension, Snapchat will soon be offering a new feature that uses that very same machine learning principles to put users’ faces on other people’s heads to make a cameo that is far too obviously fake to deceive anyone.
In a nutshell, deepfake apps like the infamous Zao app from China use machine learning to study a person’s face based on photographs or videos and then morph those to match another face. Some can even morph faces on videos to mimic mouth movements from a completely different speech. The best deepfakes are almost indistinguishable from reality, which is why some have raised concerns about how these can be used to propagate fake news.
Snapchat’s Cameo can’t really be considered as one of the best and it probably isn’t even trying hard. The purpose is more benign, depending on the recipient and is intended to be used more for entertainment. It is, in other words, the next level up from Bitmojis. In fact, the feature actually leaves inside the Bitmoji keyboard shortcut in Snapchat.
Snapchat uses a simple selfie as source material and then lets users select from a set of looping videos for users to star in. Cameo will then deform the user’s face to match the original actor’s and then superimpose that to make it look like you’re actually playing the role yourself. Of course, the way it’s done isn’t going to fool anyone.
Snapchat Cameo puts a frivolous and whimsical take on something that is boiling up to be a rather controversial topic in tech and media. It is also designed to help the social network distance itself from competitors that are copying each and every new feature. It could, however, run into problems competing with Instagram, should it decided to mimic Cameo, considering Facebook’s resources in that field.