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'Deepfake' AI can turn the Mona Lisa into a convincing real person

Olivia Rudgard
- Getty Images Contributor

AI can now turn the Mona Lisa into a real life person with just one picture.

A paper published by a Samsung artificial intelligence lab in Russia shows the ability to convincingly turn artworks and celebrity photographs into moving images. 

The technology raises the prospect of convincing "deep fakes", videos showing politicians and even people who have died saying things they never said, created just with still images of their faces. 

The paintings were animated using the facial expressions of a real person, while celebrity photographs of figures such as David Beckham were turned into video using footage of them speaking on a different occasion. 

The researchers, based at the Samsung AI Center in Moscow, also performed the effect on images of Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein, using the moving facial features of other people which was then "mapped" onto their faces, a technique known as "puppeteering". 

Other models have required a large set of images in order to create a fake video, but Samsung's method can do it with just one, though the effect is more convincing if more images are used.

The paintings were animated using the facial expressions of a real person. Credit: Universal History Archive /Getty Images Contributor 

In the Mona Lisa example, a video published by the same team shows that the animated painting looks slightly different depending on the person used as the moving image source.  "We show that such an approach is able to learn highly realistic and personalized talking head models of new people and even portrait paintings," the authors said. 

Concerns have been raised about the potential uses of such technology in the wrong hands, and the ability of the public to be able to distinguish between real videos and those which have been created in order to influence public perception of a politician.

Last year US lawmakers warned that such faked videos could be damaging to national security.  Researchers and even journalists have created convincing fake videos of figures including former US president Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

In one case a speech given by Mr Obama was "mapped" onto images of Mr Putin, making it look like they were his words.