A new Deepfake video of Bill Hader turning into Tom Cruise has gone viral because it's so realistic, but does it carry terrifying implications for the future of technology?
Deepfake videos, which have been digitally manipulated to show either something happening that never did or someone doing something that they never did, have been floating around for a while.
Usually, the technology just isn’t quite there, jolting us out of the illusion and making it clear that what we’re viewing isn’t real. But a video by Ctrl Shift Face, a YouTuber who regularly posts these videos, strays directly into uncanny valley.
The clip shows Bill Hader talking about a table read for the 2008 film Tropic Thunder, which featured Tom Cruise in a now iconic cameo alongside Hader. Partway through the anecdote Hader launches into an impression of Tom Cruise, during which - with the power of Deepfake technology - his face seamlessly morphs into a mirror image of Cruise’s. Later on, he also does an impression of Seth Rogen, and the same thing happens again. It's a real blink and you'll miss it kind of moment that frankly, is almost too good.
The shift is almost imperceptible and so is the difference between actual Tom Cruise’s face and the Hader/Cruise hybrid’s. While it’s entertaining in the context of a well-labelled deepfake by a well-known deepfake creator, those posting it have pointed out that it carries much graver implications.
This technology could be used in a number of ways – to discredit someone, to spread harmful disinformation, to otherwise trick or manipulate the public.
In the wrong hands – like, basically anyone doing it for anything other than fun – it’s a worrying sign of the ways the fabric of reality can and will be warped by technology.