September 30th, 2011
11:28 PM ET

Digital face-swapping

Anyone who's seen the Mission: Impossible films will remember seeing characters rip life-like masks off their faces to reveal Tom Cruise underneath.

Now a Spanish coder has figured out a way to put someone else's face on your own through the power of software alone - no mask required.

Arturo Castro developed the technique with Kyle McDonald and calls it Real-Time Face Substitution. In his demonstration video, he applies the face of everyone from Steve Jobs to Brad Pitt to even Paris Hilton on top of his own.

The results vary from face to face; some seem to fit well, while other have strange graphic glitches. (Castro says he thinks these are caused by the low quality of some of the facial images he's picked.) But what's really impressive is how well each overlaid face stays anchored on top of Castro's. No matter how ugly the fit, no matter what expression he pulls, the overlaid image follows along smoothly as he smiles or opens his mouth.

While you can probably imagine plenty of uses for the technology, from pranks to more malicious possibilities, Castro seems focused on having fun with it. "We are not thinking really about practical applications. We come from a more artistic background and right now we're interested in experimenting."

Castro says he's interested in using the technology to explore the "uncanny valley", the idea that there's a point where computer-generated faces become so realistic that we begin to think they're real, yet not perfect enough for people to actually believe that they are. The unsettling effect that results from this mix of realism and lifelessness in a computer-generated face is something artists and animators have been trying to eliminate for years.

Whether it serves a higher purpose or not remains to be seen. But Castro expects to release the software as open source soon, allowing others to try it out for themselves and begging the question: If you could have anyone else's face, who would you choose?

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Filed under: General • Technology • Viral Videos
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Michael R

    Awesome app! See the 'uncanny valley' solved at ShapeShot.com, that can help you. Call them.

    October 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  2. Greedo

    That's kinda cool. Ya gotta figure that in 30 years that kind of tech will be perfected. They'll be able to take photos of long dead actors and shoot new movies without having to recast the original actor (sort of). We'll always have Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones!

    October 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Reply
  3. Morrison

    Is this a joke? It looks like crap and technology like this has been around for years. Look at the different apps they have available for webcams. Stupid mexicans..

    October 1, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Reply
  4. Sam

    This is weird and all I can say is I think this person is wasting his time. Plus to make money on something that could lead ppl into lawsuits and such. It's not an acceptable tool.

    Only if he channelled his creativity to making a program which would age a person who's missing to help police find a child for e.g. that would be proper ethical use of time.

    I have the face G-d gave me. I may wish I had a smaller nose or have other features but my happiness is internally derived and in no way would I do anything to even want to have another person's face!

    Think octamom. See how ridiculous this is? Maybe for a SIMs game for silly ppl who waste their precious life playing that nonsene.

    Sorry, this is stupid .


    October 1, 2011 at 11:01 pm | Reply
  5. darkguardian1314

    This is just a proof of concept because the resolution just isn't there to convincing pass off as another person. Other than novelties, I don't see any good coming out of it but for deception.

    October 2, 2011 at 2:44 am | Reply
  6. scndnv

    Um, useless, and possibly... retarded?

    October 2, 2011 at 10:26 am | Reply
  7. darkguardian1314

    The technology is a proof of concept and a novelty. If perfected, I can only see it being used for deception and maybe movies.

    October 3, 2011 at 1:22 am | Reply
  8. dhakarpola

    Why Paris????

    October 3, 2011 at 2:46 am | Reply
  9. Dude

    Really really cool. Except for the face you used. I threw up my breakfast.

    October 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Reply
  10. smaddy

    she should have picked a better face to morph into.

    October 3, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  11. Chris

    Its no where near what it needs to be convincing...this article is pointless because theres nothing new here.

    October 3, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  12. scarsbrother

    Nothing new..

    October 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Reply

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