Adobe has released a feature called Neural Filters in Photoshop, corresponding with the Adobe MAX Conference. It’s one of the more talked-about features. Not all of them are activated yet, with many saying “beta” next to them. They promise to be fascinating. But what else do they promise?
Photoshop’s Neural Filters use artificial intelligence, or AI, to recognize a face and make subsequent tweaks to it.
Turn a head? Alter a gaze? Make someone look older? Younger? Surprised? Angry? Happy? Move some sliders, Adobe sends it up to their machine learning “cloud,” and instantly, you can change someone’s appearance.
Age of post-truth
The cat is already out of the bag. And in fact, this technology has already existed on apps for years already. But when someone as big as Adobe throws down, people pay attention. As someone who is perpetually curious, I am intrigued with this technology myself.
However, in this age of post-truth, I can’t help but think about the potential abuse. We already have deepfakes and altered reality. What happens when everyone has access to this technology?
We have seen fakes such as President Barack Obama appearing to be shaking hands with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani while a caption says “The world is a better place without these guys in power.” Someone had taken a 2011 photo of Obama shaking hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and substituted the latter with Rouhani.
We’ve seen an image of a rather corpulent President Donald Trump golfing. This too is fake. This was created by someone pasting Trump’s face onto the body of golfer John Daly.
Fake memes can tear through social media like wildfire. Even if people reveal that the photo is a fake, and even if people hear that it is a fake, the damage has already been done. And with people often more interested in affirmation than information, causing damage is rather simple to do.
Fakery is about to become even more ubiquitous. Sometimes, just sometimes, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. But no matter, it’s a race, and Adobe isn’t and won’t be the only one to offer these tools to the masses to manipulate and alter at will. And with AI in its infancy, this is only the beginning.
Will anyone believe a photo any more? Do many believe them now? In Adobe’s defense, they’re creating a tool to combat this themselves, with the Content Authenticity Initiative.
However, a picture used to say a thousand words. Now they can say many more, and many not truthful.
How quickly can we alter someone’s face with Photoshop’s Neural Filters?
As I mentioned above, I am perpetually curious and intrigued with technology. I wanted to see how easy it would be to manipulate a photo of myself eating clam chowder in a restaurant in Monterey. I decided from the outset that I would try and do as many changes as possible in the least amount of time.
Above, you can see the results of some simple manipulation. I blurred my skin slightly and then changed my head direction slightly and gave myself a bit more hair. Apparently this meant longer more than thicker.
You can see the results of the manipulation. Total time? Less than a minute. I just simply pulled a few of the sliders around and waited for Adobe’s machine learning to kick in and do the rest.
A glimpse into the future
I thought I would peek into the future and see how I would look in the Adobe universe years from now. Wrinkles, chubbier cheeks, thicker facial hair and longer hair.
When I actually arrive at my future age, how many fake memes will we all have seen? How many people will have seen “deepfakes” that have “confirmed,” informed or altered their viewpoint? Or will we all have collectively thrown our hands in the air, exclaiming, “Oh yeah, whatever … I don’t believe anything. Look, I can create a deepfake video of all the world’s dictators battling with light sabers on iPhone 25 and upload it to Instatikbook in seconds!”