How real-time deepfakes trick your brain to think that you are somebody else


A big part of your self perception and identity is related to your face. As we can’t see our own face directly — we observe it’s reflection in a mirror. Nowadays a ‘selfie-camera’ often acts as a mirror replacement that everybody carries in the pocket.

People are fascinates by mirrors and reflections since a long time. In ancient Rome Seneca writes about mirrors:

Mirrors were invented in order that man may know himself, destined to attain many benefits from this: first, knowledge of himself; next, in certain directions, wisdom. The handsome man, to avoid infamy. The homely man, to understand that what he lacks in physical appearance must be compensated for by virtue. […] This is why nature has given us the opportunity od seeing ourselves. A clear fountain or a polished stone returns to each man his image.

Source: Seneca — Naturales Quaestiones; translated by Thomas H. Corcora

The question is: What if the reflection you see is not actually a reflection?

With the ubiquitous use of smartphones as mirror replacement you can’t be so sure anymore.

While there are Snapchat filters to give you bunny ears or even a crude snapchat faceswap — this might make you laugh but is far from being realistic enough to trick your brain. Your brain immediately knows that the image is manipulated.

Not so with deepfakes. Realtime deepfakes change your face so realistically that your brains actually believes it really is you. Nuances like eye movements and facial muscle movement are consistent and do fool your brain.

Your brain puts a lot of trust in the visual system and can get easily fooled with convincing images — even if you know they are not real. That is why optical illusions work even if you know they are an illusion.

This phenomenon has been exploited using real mirrors for treatment of phantom pain in amputees for example. Fooling your brain in seeing a limb that is not actual there can help with the therapy. (Ref: Mirror Therapy for Phantom Limb Pain, US National Library of Medicine)

With realtime AI-generated images this can be put to whole new levels. As you have full control about what you see in the ‘mirror’.

aphrodite.ai is a system that creates realtime deepfakes using your computer’s webcam. You can select from a range of target faces that change in realtime. Typically deepfakes takes hours to compute — so to make deepfakes in realtime the system starts an AI-cluster for each individual use. It costs $5 for a 15 minute session.