Technology Pioneer Hao Li Says ‘Perfectly Real’ Deepfakes Will Arrive in 6 Months to a Year

Manipulated images and videos that appear “perfectly real” will be accessible to everyday people in “half-a-year to a year,” deepfake pioneer Hao Li said on CNBC on Friday.

“It’s still very easy, you can tell from the naked eye most of the deepfakes,” Li, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Southern California, said on “Power Lunch.”

“But there also are examples that are really, really convincing,” Li said, adding those require “sufficient effort” to create.

“Deepfake” refers to the process using computers and machine-learning software to manipulate videos or digital representations to make them seem real, even though they are not.

The rise of this technology has, however, given rise to concerns about how these creations could cause confusion and propagate disinformation, especially in the context of global politics. Online disinformation through targeted social-media campaigns and apps such as WhatsApp has already roiled elections around the world.

Li’s appearance on CNBC follows an appearance earlier this week at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology conference, at which he said he thought perfect deepfakes would arrive in “two to three years.”

In an email to CNBC after it asked for clarification, Li said recent developments, in particular the emergence of the wildly popular Chinese app Zao and the growing research focus, have led him to “recalibrate” his timeline.

“Also, in some ways we already know how to do it,” Li wrote in an email, adding that it is “only a matter of training with more data and implementing it.”

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Source: CNBC