Picture this: you’re at the magic show and the magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat. You’re awed, but also aware that it’s a trick. Welcome to the world of deepfakes, the digital magic tricks of the 21st century. Only, in this case, the rabbit could be a president or a celebrity saying things they’ve never said!
Deepfakes are artificially created or manipulated videos that use artificial intelligence to make it appear as if someone is saying or doing something they didn’t.
Example 1: Obama PSA (2018). Jordan Peele, an American actor and filmmaker, created a deepfake video of former President Barack Obama as a public service announcement about the dangers of deepfakes. Peele’s voice impersonates Obama’s while the visuals show a convincingly manipulated Obama saying things he never actually said.
Example 2: Mona Lisa Comes to Life (2019). Samsung’s AI lab in Russia created a deepfake of the Mona Lisa, bringing her to life from just a single image. The researchers used AI to animate and create realistic facial expressions, making the world’s most famous portrait appear as if she was alive.
Example 3: Tom Cruise TikTok Deepfakes (2021). A series of deepfake videos on TikTok featured Hollywood actor Tom Cruise doing various activities, such as playing golf or doing a magic trick. The impersonation was so convincing that it went viral and sparked a fresh debate about the implications of such technology.
Deepfake Examples In-Depth
Obama PSA (2018)
In 2018, the world got an uncanny glimpse into the potential—and danger—of deepfake technology. Actor and filmmaker Jordan Peele joined forces with BuzzFeed to create a now-infamous video featuring former U.S. President Barack Obama. At first glance, it seemed like any other address from the charismatic leader, but there was one catch: the words were Peele’s, and the face, while appearing to be Obama’s, was a digital puppet controlled by artificial intelligence.
Let’s set the scene. The video starts with what seems to be Obama behind a desk, speaking directly to the camera. He greets viewers in his typical calm and measured tone. But as the video progresses, his words begin to stray from the usual political rhetoric into wild and unexpected territory. He discusses the movie “Black Panther,” uses language that a president wouldn’t usually use, and even calls himself Jordan Peele.
Wait, what? That’s right. Halfway through the video, the face of Obama, still moving naturally and speaking fluently, reveals that he is, in fact, Jordan Peele. The video then splits into two screens. On one side, viewers see the deepfake Obama continue his unlikely speech. On the other, Peele sits behind a microphone, impersonating Obama’s voice and controlling the former president’s digital likeness.
This public service announcement wasn’t designed to trick people. Instead, it aimed to raise awareness about the potential misuse of deepfake technology. Peele, acting as Obama, warns viewers, “This is a dangerous time. Moving forward, we need to be more vigilant with what we trust from the internet.”
This example of deepfake technology showed the world that we couldn’t always believe what we saw. It was no longer just Photoshop altering still images—now, videos could be manipulated, too. The Obama deepfake served as a sobering reminder that in this era of artificial intelligence, critical thinking and media literacy are more important than ever.
Jordan Peele’s video, while humorous, delivered a powerful message. As deepfake technology improves, we must become even more discerning consumers of digital content. So, the next time you see a video of a public figure saying something unexpected, remember the deepfake Obama, and ask yourself: is this real, or just another rabbit pulled out of the AI’s hat?
Mona Lisa Comes to Life (2019)
If I were to ask you about the most famous portrait in the world, the “Mona Lisa” would likely come to mind. Painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 16th century, her enigmatic smile has intrigued viewers for hundreds of years. But in 2019, a team of researchers from Samsung’s AI lab in Russia gave us a new perspective on this iconic work of art. They brought the “Mona Lisa” to life.
Now, imagine walking into the Louvre, and instead of the Mona Lisa’s subtle smile and serene gaze, you see her looking around, blinking, and even speaking. That’s a bit what it was like to see the deepfake video created by Samsung’s AI researchers. Using a single image—just one!—the team managed to create a convincing video of the “Mona Lisa” as if she were a living, breathing person.
“But how can this be?” you might ask. “It’s just one image, right?” Well, that’s where the magic of artificial intelligence comes in. The researchers used a sophisticated technique called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). They fed their AI system with a dataset of thousands of videos of talking heads—real, living people. By comparing these videos with the still image of the Mona Lisa, the AI managed to generate a video that mirrored natural human expressions.
The result was breathtaking. In the video, Mona Lisa appears to look around and communicate just like a real person would. Her mysterious smile seems to deepen, and she even appears to talk. This artificial animation was so believable that it gave the viewers an eerie feeling, almost as if the line between art and reality had blurred.
This deepfake isn’t just a cool party trick—it’s a game changer. It demonstrated the power of AI to animate a single photo into a realistic video, and not just with famous paintings, but with any photo. It means that anyone with a picture of their great-grandparents could potentially see them ‘come to life,’ or history teachers could bring historical figures into the classroom in a whole new way.
This remarkable use of deepfake technology invites us to reimagine the boundaries of art, history, and personal memories. At the same time, it’s a poignant reminder of how easily our eyes can be tricked, urging us to keep our wits about us in this new age of digital illusion. As Mona Lisa’s animated double shows us, not everything is as it appears to be, and in a world of deepfakes, seeing should not always equate to believing.
Tom Cruise TikTok Deepfakes (2021)
Imagine scrolling through your TikTok feed, and suddenly, you see Hollywood star Tom Cruise playing golf. You might think, “Oh cool, Tom Cruise has a TikTok account!” But when you look closer, something seems off. Well, in 2021, many TikTok users had this experience, only to realize that it wasn’t the actual Tom Cruise they were watching, but a highly convincing deepfake.
The videos were the work of a Belgian visual effects specialist, Chris Ume, who used AI technology to superimpose Tom Cruise’s likeness onto footage of a Tom Cruise impersonator. The result? A virtual doppelgänger that mimicked the actor’s likeness down to his characteristic grin and mannerisms.
The video started with ‘Tom’ holding a golf club and recounting an amusing anecdote about his golfing escapades. The deepfake was so convincing that the clip quickly went viral, with many viewers initially fooled into thinking they were watching the real deal.
But it didn’t stop at golfing. Other videos featured ‘Tom’ performing a magic trick with a coin and laughing his iconic laugh, even stumbling in a well-tailored suit in a luxury store. The accuracy of the mimicry was uncanny, showcasing just how advanced deepfake technology had become by 2021.
While these deepfakes were ultimately created in good fun and meant to display the prowess of visual effects, they sparked a broader conversation about the power and potential misuse of deepfake technology. If a skilled individual could create such a believable likeness of Tom Cruise, what could stop someone from using this technology with malicious intent?
The Tom Cruise TikTok deepfakes served as a stark reminder that we’re now living in an era where seeing is no longer believing. It’s both thrilling and a bit unsettling. As we scroll through our social media feeds, we must remember to do so with a critical eye, knowing that even the most familiar faces may not always be what they seem.
With each new advancement in AI, the line between reality and fabrication becomes increasingly blurred. While this technology opens up exciting possibilities for entertainment and innovation, it also emphasizes the need for vigilance in the digital age. So, the next time you see a celebrity doing something extraordinary on social media, remember the Tom Cruise deepfakes, and take a moment to question: is this reality, or just another illusion created by the magician’s hand of AI?
As we navigate the uncharted waters of the digital age, it becomes evident that our old adage, “seeing is believing,” needs a revamp. In the world of deepfakes, seeing is no longer enough. From public service announcements featuring presidents, to bringing iconic paintings to life, to causing double-takes on TikTok, deepfake technology has demonstrated its potential to create engaging, shocking, and sometimes eerie content. But with this capability comes responsibility. As we stand at this intersection of technology and reality, let’s remember to keep our eyes wide open, minds sharp, and always question what we see. In this new era, critical thinking isn’t just an asset—it’s a necessity.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the most frequently asked questions.
What is a deepfake?
A deepfake is a video or audio clip that has been manipulated using artificial intelligence. This technology allows for the creation of realistic content that may show individuals saying or doing things that they never actually said or did. The term “deepfake” combines “deep learning” and “fake,” reflecting the AI techniques used to create these videos.
How are deepfakes made?
Deepfakes are created using a type of AI called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). In simple terms, one part of the AI, the generator, tries to create convincing fake videos, while another part, the discriminator, tries to identify which videos are fake. Over time, the generator becomes better at creating fakes, making them increasingly realistic and harder to detect.
Are deepfakes legal?
The legality of deepfakes varies by country and context. In many places, using deepfakes for defamation, fraud, or harm is illegal. However, legislation is struggling to keep up with the rapid advancement of this technology. As such, while deepfakes used for art, satire, or research may be legal, their potential misuse presents complex legal and ethical challenges.
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.
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