TechKNOW Tomorrow – How to Spot Deepfakes

Image by Ctrl Shift Face via Screenrant.

In our last article, we discovered some of the potential advantages and disadvantages behind the technology of deepfakes – videos, images, or audio recordings that use AI to replace someone’s face and/or voice with that of another. This results in a type of fake news called manipulated content or, in more intentional cases, satire.

In this article, we’ll dive a little deeper into deepfakes to learn how we could potentially spot and prevent the spread of misinformation. We’ll also discover what governments and other organizations are doing to combat this risky, yet promising, technology.

How to Spot Deepfakes

As we determined in our previous article, deepfakes use a face-swapping, AI-powered technology to make a video of your favourite celebrity or politician that never actually happened. The reason this works so well with famous people is because of the abundance of images and videos of that person available on the internet, which allows the facial gestures of the famous person to replace that of virtually anyone. Ultimately, a deepfake can be made of anyone, including your family and best friends!

For an example of deepfake technology, take a look at this Indiana Jones video which replaces Harrison Ford’s face with Chris Pratt’s.

Original actor Harrison Ford is replaced with Chris Pratt in this convincing deepfake.

It’s not just videos and images that use this technology; deepfakes can also replicate a politician’s voice or create songs never sung by your favourite band. This means that virtually most types of media that we regularly consume will have to be viewed with a skeptical eye.

That said, there are ways that you can spot deepfakes with the naked eye. When looking at ANY image or video you’re uncertain about, try to spot the following:

  • Unnatural eye movement or facial expressions, including signs such as a lack of blinking, odd eye movements, too much blinking, or uneven eye/eyebrow shadows.
  • Unnatural facial positioning, body, or posture. Do the lips sync with what the person is supposedly saying?
  • A face that lacks the proper emotion in relation to what someone is supposedly saying.
  • Cheeks and forehead that appear too smooth or wrinkly.Is the agedness of the skin similar to the agedness of the hair and eyes?
  • Unrealistic hair or teeth. Frizzy hair or loose ends usually aren’t present in more elaborate deepfakes, and individual teeth are difficult for AI to replicate.
  • Glasses glare or facial hair. Is there too much or too little glare? Does the facial hair look fake in any way?
  • Discolouration: “abnormal skin tone, discoloration, weird lighting, and misplaced shadows” are all signs of a deepfake.
  • Does the video still look real if you slow it down? Deepfakes become easier to spot when you analyze them image by image. For instance, poor lip-syncing becomes more apparent.
  • Inconsistent noise or audio. It’s not just images and videos that you have to analyze. Listen carefully for “robotic-sounding voices, strange word pronunciation, digital background noise, or even the absence of audio“.
  • Reverse image search. Here’s a quick guide on how to perform a reverse image search, which allows you to find other copies of the image and see which websites they appear on. If it’s fake, there’s a chance that someone else has already determined its authenticity.
  • Fake news-detecting websites will often have articles written by others that determine the veracity of an image, video, or voice recording. For instance, Snopes is an excellent resource for discovering the truth behind recent deepfakes.

Deepfakes become easier to spot with practice. Search for deepfakes on YouTube, or try this quiz with various true and false images, videos, and audio recordings!

How Governments and Organizations Are Dealing with Deepfakes

As deepfakes become more realistic, it’s becoming harder for the human eye to detect them naturally. Thankfully, there are other technologies developed to combat deepfakes that seek to spread misinformation.

Understanding blockchains, courtesy of CNBC.

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So what’s the lesson here? Perhaps it’s the fact that although technology has presented issues for us through deepfakes, technology also has the potential to combat any potential disadvantages of this form of manipulated content. Ultimately, technology doesn’t have to be feared, but rather understood, in order for positive changes to occur worldwide.

At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – Deepfakes: Realistic Imposter Videos

Image by Shutterstock via Kaspersky.

If you’ve ever used Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok to create pictures and videos, you might be familiar with filters that change your appearance. With video filters, you can essentially photoshop images or animations onto your face that play in real time and automatically adjust based on the position of your head. Dog ears, a bunny’s nose, or large expressive eyes are all good examples of this.

Recently, this technology has been taken a step further with the rise of deepfakes. Deepfakes “use a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to make images of fake events” through neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and computer-generated imagery (CGI). Using AI combined with NLP and CGI, the average person could create anything from a clearly satirical video to a realistic manipulated video that closely impersonates a celebrity.

For example, take a look at the video below that illustrates how realistic this technology is becoming. A visual effects artist breaks down how a Tom Cruise impersonator that mimics the actor’s voice inflections and gestures actually “became the actor” by using thousands of actual images of Cruise’s face.

A Tom Cruise deepfake example.

That said, it’s not just the average user we have to worry about with deepfakes. Companies are already looking towards recreating celebrity concerts and documentaries with realistic deepfakes – both video and audio – that would be otherwise impossible.

For example, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s new documentary, Roadrunner, “used AI learning technology to recreate Bourdain’s voice for three individual quotes – each written down, but not spoken by him“. The same is being done with Whitney Houston’s visual appearance in Las Vegas later this year. A concert featuring a live band and choreographed dancing has been planned for October of 2021, though the main attraction will be a hologram version of Whitney Houston on stage “singing” remastered versions of her studio hits.

Likewise, more musicians will be getting the same treatment in the coming years. The Beach Boys recently sold all of their technological property in a deal that “allows the rights to use technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and natural language processing (computer-generated speech)“. This likely means that there are plans to digitally recreate the band for hologram concerts like Houston’s in the near future.

As with any technology, there are both advantages and disadvantages to the potential of deepfakes.

The Pros and Cons of Deepfakes

CON: A lack of trust

One major concern about deepfakes is how difficult it is becoming to spot them. In the past, photoshopped or airbrushed images usually had glaring flaws that the human eye could detect with a little effort. The same can be said of deepfakes when they first arrived on the internet back in 2017. Today, the technology is a lot more refined… and a lot more dangerous as a result.

Imagine if the prime minister gives a press conference inciting violence. Or maybe your favourite celebrity makes a racist comment. Even if they apologize for it, how do you know whether the apology is genuine or a deepfake? Was the whole thing a hoax or was it real? These types of situations could lead to confusion and distrust among the average person, and defamation for politicians/celebrities. Fake news could become even harder to detect.

CON: A rise in scams

Financial scams could become more elaborate as deepfakes continue to develop. A romance scam in which the person you’re dating disguises both their voice and video to seem more trustworthy, for instance. A phone call from a “friend” asking for an e-transfer could result in lost money. In fact, back in 2019, “scammers using the exact same trick managed to defraud a company out of $240,000″!

Should we be concerned about the rise of this new technology? Most definitely, but that doesn’t mean it’s all bad.

Image by Ctrl Shift Face via YouTube.

PRO: A new type of art

As we saw with Whitney Houston’s hologram concert, deepfakes could give us a chance to experience a fun concert or movie with musicians and actors who have passed away. We could see more exposure to art from decades long past, such as hearing a new song by Frank Sinatra that he never actually sang or a Christmas rap tune featuring 2PAC and the Notorious B.I.G. (NOTE: this is a clean track without curse words or disturbing subject matter). The possibilities of art are already expanding!

PRO: Advances in research and training

You may be surprised to learn that the medical field could benefit greatly from deepfakes. For example, by generating “fake” brain scans based on the data received from actual patients, these scans can be “used to train algorithms to spot tumours in real images“. Deepfakes can also be used in medicine to “restore people’s voices when they lose them to disease“.

Furthermore, deepfakes could create AI avatars that aid in training videos or promotional material, which is vital during a time in which social distancing is the norm.

PRO: A method to protect identities

You may have heard of the LGBTQ+ purges in Chechnya which involve the detainment, torture, and murder of members of the community just for identifying as a sexual orientation outside of the norm. In the documentary, Welcome to Chechnya, a film that captures the horror stories of these purges, deepfakes are used “to superimpose supple, completely fabricated faces over 23 hunted individuals“, protecting their identities from further prosecution. This technology can continue to protect the identity of an individual without sacrificing the visual appeal or immersion of a film.

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We hope this information on deepfakes has been helpful! Stay tuned for the next article in which we give you tips on how to spot deepfakes yourself and what governments are doing to combat this new type of manipulated content.

At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

TechKNOW Tomorrow – 2035: The End of Gasoline Vehicles

Image by Erik Mclean via Unsplash.

Despite our attempts to prevent or slow down climate change, it’s unfortunately too late – the damage we’ve done to our world is now irreversible. Regardless of where you live, you can see some of these effects on a daily basis. The typhoons in China, the floods in Pakistan and India, the wildfires in France and the United States, and the heat wave in Western Canada… all of these issues stem from climate change caused by humans to varying extents.

While much damage has already been done to the environment, many countries have finally recognized the importance of reducing greenhouse emissions to prevent an even worse climate crisis in the future. One major target discussed during the Paris Agreement in 2016 was the reduction of fuel emissions generated by gasoline-powered vehicles. That said, how does a country like ours reduce fuel emissions?

Another Chance for Electric Vehicles

Towards the end of June 2021, the federal government of Canada “pledged a goal of having all sales of light-duty vehicles, including pickup trucks, be zero-emission vehicles by 2035“. This means that by 2035, it will be illegal to own a new vehicle powered by gas, which includes hybrids and gasoline-powered vehicles. Zero-emission vehicles include three different types: battery-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen fuel cell.

Many companies like General Motors (GM), Volkswagen (VW), and Ford are already changing their vehicle lineups and investing in rechargeable batteries and electric motors.

We’ve seen electric vehicles before, but most of us never bought into them. When the technology was in its infancy, the vehicles proved to be difficult to maintain and expensive to purchase. Most unfortunate, however, was the limited distance an electric vehicle could cover on a single charge compared to a conventional vehicle running on gasoline.

A recent technological breakthrough is changing that. Electric vehicles are currently powered by lithium-ion batteries, which come with numerous limitations. Today, lithium-metal batteries are being designed and tested to power vehicles, which could boost the current range of an EV by 80% and can be rapidly recharged. The goal is to have these batteries powering electric vehicles by 2025.

Pros and Cons of Electric Vehicles

Pros

  1. Electricity can be a renewable source of energy, while gasoline can’t. Solar, wind, and hydro power are all great examples of cheaper alternatives to gasoline.
  2. Electric vehicles don’t produce carbon dioxide emissions and electricity is much better for the environment than gasoline is.
  3. Lithium-metal batteries “could increase the lifetime of electric vehicles to that of the gasoline cars—10 to 15 years—without the need to replace the battery. With its high current density, the battery could pave the way for electric vehicles that can fully charge within 10 to 20 minutes.” Vehicle longevity, once a major concern for buyers, won’t really be a factor when making the move from gasoline to electric.
  4. Electric vehicles don’t need oil and, thanks to the electric motor, require less frequent and more affordable maintenance than a traditional combustion engine.
  5. Have you ever been annoyed by the sound of your vehicle’s engine? Electric cars are supposed to be a lot quieter.

Cons

  1. While this should change in the near future, electric vehicles still cost more than vehicles powered by gasoline.
  2. Electric vehicles, despite many improvements, still can’t travel the same distance on a single charge that a gasoline-powered vehicle can with a full tank. The lithium-metal battery should be able to make up for this soon, but it’s still not quite ready for the market.
  3. Lithium-metal batteries promise to offer a full charge in as little as 10 to 20 minutes, but the average electric vehicle today could take over an hour to charge!
  4. At the moment, it can be difficult to find a charging station for your vehicle. Canada has approximately 5,000 charging stations, while there are just under 12,000 gas stations across the entire country.
Image by Eduardo Arcos via Unsplash.

Ultimately, it may not be wise to invest in an electric car at the moment. That said, big changes are on the horizon – not just for Canada, but across the entire world. Like it or not, electric vehicles seem to be the future for the automotive industry… one that we’ll have to embrace sooner rather than later.

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At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.