“As TechCrunch notes, the company has simply pivoted from a focus on de-identification to consumer entertainment.”
A facial recognition disrupter is back in the spotlight with a new technology that could present a serious problem for selfie-based identity verification solutions if used maliciously. At this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt event, D-ID unveiled a tool that lets the end user animate a 2D face image and manipulate it almost like a puppet.
The startup first gained notoriety in 2018 with an image processing solution designed to jam facial recognition systems while still rendering face images recognizable to human eyes. It followed that up with the launch of a ‘Smart Anonymization’ tool in 2019 that was designed to scrub not only facial features but also identifying information such as license plate numbers from images on the internet.
Both tools were aimed at protecting end users’ privacy without having to resort to awkward blurring and pixelation mechanisms. But now, the company has returned to the spotlight with technology that could potentially put end users at risk of certain types of identity fraud.
Called ‘Speaking Portraits’, the solution is designed to let end users generate HD videos from still images, animating the images with their own movements. Thanks to AI-powered face mapping, an end user can make a picture of another person speak, turn its head, and perform a range of other movements.
To many, this will immediately bring to mind deepfake technology in which AI is used to manipulate videos in order to create convincing videos of public figures that are in fact inauthentic. This technology has caused some unease amid a boom in the use of selfie-based authentication systems, with concerns about imposters using deepfake tech to trick such systems into false positives.
Speaking Portraits would seem to point to a direct route for such malefactors, who could use it to animate a 2D image of a target victim. This approach would appear to be particularly threatening to video-based selfie authentication systems that use speech and movement prompts as additional safeguards and liveness checks.
Such applications are not the aim of D-ID, of course. As TechCrunch notes, the company has simply pivoted from a focus on de-identification to consumer entertainment. D-ID got considerable media attention this year thanks to an app launched in partnership with MyHeritage that was designed to animate historic family photos, and went on to develop a promotional app with Warner Bros. that let end users swap their own faces into the trailer for the movie “Reminiscence”.
Speaking at Disrupt, D-ID CEO Gil Perry said that his team want to make sure their new tool is “used for good, not bad,” and indicated that D-ID and its partners plan to issue a commitment to “transparency and consent” in late October, though it isn’t yet clear what particular safeguards will be put in place with respect to spoofing and identity theft.