We all remember the popular Harry Potter movies right? So unless you’re in Harry’s world or you happen to be in the land of oz, you expect portraits and photos to stay still. But thanks to the latest in digital-animation technologies, that may no longer be the case.
“With the help of some high-tech motion-capture techniques, computer scientists can now take a still photo of a person’s face and animate it”. The photos can be animated to express emotions such as happiness, anger or surprise. They can even include details such as teeth when the person in the actual photo had shown none.
The new photo-manipulation technique is the result of a collaboration between computer scientists at Facebook and Tel Aviv University. The research provides what the scientists claim is the most realistic manipulations of a portrait or selfie to date.
“The most difficult part is to make it look real, or natural looking,” said lead author Hadar Averbuch-Elor, a doctoral candidate at Tel Aviv University. “People are extremely sensitive to the most subtle variations in face animation and it’s challenging not to fall into the ‘uncanny valley,'” she said.
The team started their research by mapping the facial features of someone looking at the camera in a photo. Then, they did the same facial-feature mapping to an actor expressing an emotion in a video, either shot in the lab or taken from a database. The facial movements from the video were then applied to the original photo, animating it into expressing an emotion, according to the research.
Once the researchers got the original photo moving, they fine-tuned the resulting video by smoothing out wrinkles and, if necessary, adding in the actor’s teeth and tongue.
What they were left with was a short video of a person making an expression.
The team said that this technology could be used to animate profile photos on Facebook; clicking the “like” button could someday make your photo smile at the liker, or something to that effect.
I don’t know about you, but my profile picture smiling when the like button is click is just plain scary.
And like most technology,
It’s possible that the technology could one day be used to manipulate photos into a deliberately misleading videos.
“When we were creating the technology, the goal was to push the boundaries of what’s possible starting from just a single image,” Averbuch-Elor said. “We didn’t have production plans in mind and still don’t — we wanted to create state-of-the-art research.”
As face-manipulating technology becomes even more advanced, the line between real and fake could blur and become harder to find.
“We didn’t really think about it while we were creating this technology,” says Averbuch-Elor, “but like with many other examples, technology can be misused.
With technologies like this, fake photos and videos have never been so easy to fake. But just in case should you come across a photo or video with me in a compromising position, just know one thing: it ain’t me.