Zao, a free deep-fake face-swapping app that can put your likeness into scenes from hundreds of movies and TV shows after uploading just one photo, has gone viral in China. Bloomberg announces that the application was released on Friday and quickly reached the top of the free charts on the Chinese iOS App Store. And like the FaceApp aging app before it, Zao's creators are now facing backlash because of the perceived threat to consumer privacy.
Twitter user Allan Xia posted a clean demo of what the app is capable of with a 30-second clip on their face yesterday, replacing Leonardo DiCaprio in famous moments from several of his films. According to Xia, the videos are generated in less than eight seconds from just one photo, but Bloomberg notes that the app can also guide you through the process of taking a series of photos ̵
In case you haven't heard, #ZAO is a Chinese app that totally blew up by Friday. The best Deepfake-style AI replacement application I've seen.
Here's an example of me as DiCaprio (generated in less than 8 seconds from this one thumbnail photo) pic.twitter.com/1RpnJJ3wgT
– Alan Xia (@AllanXia) September 1, 2019
According to Xia, the application only offers a limited number of videos to insert your face into. The application programmer may have trained his algorithms on each of these videos to easily redirect the user's face to them, like Xia speculates. The app cannot map your face to any video of your choice.
The technology looks similar to what we saw recently from researchers at Imperial College London who showed technology that can turn a photo into a singer portrait. The difference here is that Zao inserts your image into an existing video rather than animating directly your photo. Nonetheless, it shows how quickly basic technology has evolved: what once required hundreds of images to create a pretty compelling film for deep forgery now requires only one image with better results.
Protesters in Hong Kong will seek to cover their faces because of fears that police are using facial recognition technology to identify and arrest targets. People are increasingly aware of the importance of their facial image data and are justifiably concerned about companies that do not take adequate safeguards to protect them.
Whenever a service is provided free of charge, a company inevitably benefits from your data. Sometimes it's for better ad targeting, sometimes it's to train AI for better face recognition. You often don't know.