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?