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Photorealistic talking head generated by Synthesia

The same technology that has bedeviled Hollywood stars and roiled politics is easing corporate communications.

What’s new: Synthesia generates training and sales videos featuring photorealistic, synthetic talking heads that read personalized scripts in any of 34 languages, Wired reports. You can try out the service here.

How it works: The company uses GANs for much of its rendering, but its production pipeline includes customized deep learning, computer vision, and visual effects, a representative told The Batch. Clients submit a script and choose from a selection of avatars, languages, and voices, and the AI generates a video of the avatar reading the client’s words.

  • Advertising giant WPP used the service to create a series of training programs for its staff. Each program is roughly five minutes long and presented in English, Mandarin, and Spanish, and the avatar addresses each of WPP’s 50,000 employees by name.
  • The avatars are based on human actors who are paid whenever a client chooses their likeness. Clients can also use custom avatars based on video footage.
  • The system has been used to translate a public service announcement by football star David Beckham into nine languages and to help an English-speaking man propose to his wife in Mandarin.

Behind the news: Generated video is also catching on in advertising and marketing.

  • Synthesia adapted a recording by rapper Snoop Dogg for an ad.
  • Generated video appeared in a commercial broadcast during ESPN’s docu-series “The Last Dance.” The video was part of a simulated news report from the 1990s in which a commentator mused that ESPN one day would produce such a documentary.
  • Rosebud AI offers a tool that lets clothing companies dress generated fashion models in their garments.

Why it matters: Producers of commercial video and photography have become interested in AI’s ability to generate realistic human characters as the pandemic has curtailed live film shoots, according to the Synthesia CEO and co-founder Victor Riparbelli. Generated characters save the cost of hiring cast and crew and make it easy to localize productions for a worldwide audience. Plus, there’s no danger of spreading a deadly cough.

We’re thinking: It’s easy to see potential harm in deepfakes, but the same techniques have productive uses for people with imagination to recognize them and ingenuity to implement them at scale.


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