It’s probably a safe bet that most of us computer users have tried their hand at Photoshop at least once. Some of us became incredible digital artists, and some of us became brilliant face-swapping trolls… among other things.
It’s an amazing tool that’s useful in so many ways, so Adobe figured they’d one-up themselves by creating something amazing, and potentially very scary.
During the Adobe MAX 2016 Sneak Peeks, co-hosted by Jordan Peele, a new product called VoCo was introduced to the audience. A few things will result from this technology, and one will undoubtedly be a new age of prank calling.
“You guys have been making weird things online with photo editing,” said Adobe’s Zeyu Jin during VoCo’s first public demo seen below. “We’ll do the next thing today. Let’s do something to human speech. Like changing what you said in your wedding.”
In the video above, VoCo is used to change Keegan Michael Key saying “I kissed my dogs and my wife,” to “I kissed my wife and my dogs.” There’s a noticeable blip in the audio, which is easily fixable, but it’s the next part that’s wild and a bit unsettling. By typing in a new word not recorded in the original sample used, Zeyu was able to change the sentence to “I kissed Jordan and my dogs.”
And it sounds pretty damn good.
The problem this poses is very clear. Whenever their, or a competitor’s, algorithm gets good enough, users will be able to fabricate recordings. Imagine if a technology like this had been around for a few years. Political sound experts would be debating the validity of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood tape. Anything recorded by a journalist would have to be analyzed by teams to discern whether or not the soundbite is real and not digitally manufactured.
Media manipulation made simple is a dangerous proposition, but the tool does have some practical uses. Hollywood could use the technology to re-record and dub dialog that may not have been recorded properly the first time around. It could even be used to read text messages aloud in the voice of the person who sent them. That’s still kind of creepy, but you get the idea.
It remains to be seen exactly what will happen with this technology, but be prepared for a great deal of concern surrounding media manipulation. That said, I wish we had this when I was a kid… those prank calls would’ve been EPIC.