It looks and sounds like Tom Cruise, but it isn't the Hollywood actor starring in a series of TikTok videos that have now gone viral. The four Cruise clips have been viewed more than 20 million times, and feature a relatively new technology called deepfake.
“In the simplest sense what you are doing is just overlaying someone’s face, “ says South Florida based tech expert Craig Agranoff. “Basically what you’re saying is that somebody took these videos and deeply edited them to make them look real.”
In the case of the Tom Cruise videos, they are the creation of visual effects expert Chris Ume. The Belgium based deepfake designer spent months working on the models needed to created the Cruise clips. He teamed up with a Tom Cruise look-a-like, actor Miles Fisher, to create the series of videos.
“It was really hard to make these videos," said Ume. “I did 24 hours of post production on each video separately. I went frame by frame. People cannot do it with one click – it’s a lot of work...maybe in the future it will change. “
It is that future potential that has a lot of people concerned. Deepfake videos of other celebrities, and even former presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, have already made their rounds online. Agranoff worries that as the technology continues to improve, it could become risky business.
“Deepfakes aren’t just limited to video, it’s also audio recordings. So we are in a world of unknown danger coming in the future. This is going to go on in ways we can’t possibly imagine. Imagine you’re in a child custody battle and there’s doctored video or audio to sway the judge. This can go wrong in so many ways that we haven’t even seen yet. “
Ume is also concerned, and says he made these videos to not only entertain, but to raise awareness about the deepfake technology, and potential for dangerous deepfakes.
“I strongly think there should be laws to help responsible use of AI and deepfake in general. There will always be people misusing the technology and somehow we’ll have to deal with it,“ said Agranoff.
There are several ways to spot a deepfake video, but Agranoff and Ume both say that the most important thing to do is make sure that the video you are watching comes from a reliable source. Look at the video quality and also you make sure to listen to what is being said to make sure it makes sense.
“If it’s weird in a a way that it doesn’t make sense for a person to say a certain thing. Always do your research,” said Ume.
Agranoff adds, “relax for a second, take a breath and ask..is this real?”