- People are using cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology to splice actor Nicolas Cage's face into a wide assortment movies and TV shows, creating surreal mash-up clips.
- The same technology has also been used recently to insert the images of female celebrities into pornographic videos without their consent.
- As the technology improves, it could lead to new forms of art, but it could also be used to attempt to blackmail people or to create fake news stories.
The future is here — and it looks like Nicolas Cage.
Some online users are taking a new kind of artificial intelligence technology and using it to insert the hammy actor into films and TV shows he didn't actually star in — basically into anything and everything they can imagine, from classic James Bond films to scenes from "Game of Thrones."
Reddit users began posting about and running with the idea on Thursday after one wondered how long it would be before the AI technology, which has already been put to more unscrupulous uses, was used to create a "full Nic Cage movie."
"That's actually a very very good idea," another Reddit user responded.
While humorous, the clips point to the growing sophistication of the technology — and its potential uses, both good and bad.
The name's Cage, Nicolas Cage
You can now find an assortment of Nick Cage-enhanced clips on the online forum site. In one, Cage becomes James Bond, replacing Sean Connery in the vintage Bond movie "Dr. No."
In another, the actor is transformed into the dour-faced Stannis Baratheon from "Game of Thrones," in place of actor Stephen Dillane.
In yet another, Cage replaces Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in a pivotal scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
And in a particularly meta video, the fake-Cage appears alongside the real Cage on an episode of Saturday Night Live, replacing actor Andy Sandberg — who was already impersonating the real Cage.
What could be the pièce de résistance, however, is still just an idea: Some Reddit users are discussing recreating fantasy epic "Lord of the Rings" with Cage playing every single character.
(Business Insider isn't linking to the Reddit community where these clips are being shared, because they are intermixed with videos that are objectionable or pose ethical concerns.)
The technology behind the videos is also being used in more nefarious ways
To create their Cage-enhanced videos, Redditors are using a freely available app called FakeApp. They feed it photos of Cage and the video into which they want him inserted. The app uses AI to digitally overlay his face on the video.
Due to variations in face shape, lighting, movement, and the like, some results are more realistic than others — as you can see above. But generally, the more images the app has to work with, the better the results.
But why Nicolas Cage? The actor is famous for his over-the-top performances and has become a meme of sorts in recent years in some corners of the internet. The deliberate incongruity of putting his image in unlikely places offers obvious opportunities for subversive humor.
Nick Cage isn't the first celebrity to get the FakeApp treatment. It's been used on many different ones to place them in videos they didn't actually appear in, often creating highly realistic mash-ups, as Motherboard first reported last month.
It's also been frequently used in much more disturbing ways than having Nick Cage turn into James Bond. In many cases, people have used to FakeApp to insert images of female celebrities into pornographic videos without their consent.
Indeed, in the Reddit community being used to share FakeApp clips, the overwhelming majority of videos being posted are these pornographic ones — not Nicolas Cage videos or other surreal experiments. These explicit videos are akin to "revenge porn" and have to the potential to be humiliating for their unwitting subjects.
Technology such as FakeApp has lots of potential — for good and bad
These videos — both the good and the bad — can be thought of as initial, rudimentary experiments with the technology. But they offer hints of what may come.
On the positive side, experts have predicted that technology such as FakeApp could lead to exciting new forms of art and contribute to the internet's long-established "remix culture." Indeed, it could be used to create whole new genres of media — and lots of new legal conundrums, Francis Tseng, the copublisher of New Inquiry, told Business Insider last summer.
"There could be a lot of interesting [intellectual property] cases if amateur filmmakers start synthesizing films using the likenesses of celebrities and start profiting off that," Teng said. "I can imagine a whole culture of bootleg films produced in this way."
On the flip side, as the technology improves, it will likely be used in more dangerous and antisocial ways. For example, it has the potential to turbo-charge fake news. When paired with technology that can synthesize real people's voices, apps such as FakeApp could make it extremely difficult for ordinary people to distinguish what's real from what's fake.
And such technology could well be used to harass and blackmail people, putting them — virtually — in compromising situations.
The technology could "lift cyberbullying to a whole new level," Justin Thies, who helped develop Face2face, an earlier experiment in the field, told Business Insider.
At its worst, technology such as FakeApp could undermine the very concept of truth — and all the Nicolas Cages in the world won't be able to save us.
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