A bizarre new comedy coming to ITVX this month will have a stellar line up of some of the world’s most famous people including Idris Elba and Harry Kane – but all is not as it seems.
As viewers watch Nicki Minaj and Tom Holland sharing a sofa wearing hot pink velor tracksuits and arguing with their neighbors including rapper Stormzy, they will actually be looking at deep fake imitations of the real people.
Deep Fake Neighbor Wars, created by Spencer Jones and Barney Francis, will show some of these hugely famous people living on the same street as they argue over petty issues that often cause neighbors to butt heads.
The comedy, which will air on ITV’s new streaming service on January 26, will present the AI-generated famous faces, who have a ‘spot-on’ likeness to their real counterparts, to an audience in the UK’s first ever deepfake comedy.
The so-called ‘deepfake’ phenomenon uses AI technology to manipulate videos and audio in a way that replicates real life.
While in this context, the use of the technology is described as ‘silly’ by its creators, concerns have been raised in the past about how deepfakes have been used to generate child sexual abuse videos and revenge porn, as well as political hoaxes.
In November, an amendment was made to the government’s Online Safety Bill which stated using deepfake technology to make pornographic images and footage of people without their consent would be made illegal.
Deep Fake Neighbor Wars, which uses deepfake, AI technology to replicate real famous people including Greta Thunberg (pictured) will come to ITV’s new streaming service ITVX at the end of this month – and despite concerns around the ethics of the premise, the show’s creators insist it’s just ‘silly’
Deep Fake Neighbor Wars uses AI technology to replicate famous people including Idris Elba and Kim Kardashian (pictured) to present them as ‘everyday’ people
The Ministry of Justice said a raft of changes to the law would better protect victims from having their intimate images shared without their consent.
At the time, justice secretary Dominic Raab said: ‘We must do more to protect women and girls, from people who take or manipulate intimate photos in order to hound or humiliate them.
‘Our changes will give police and prosecutors the powers they need to bring these cowards to justice and safeguard women and girls from such vile abuse.’
Despite potential concerns over the ethics of creating AI versions of very famous people, the show’s creators told the Guardian they were not concerned about the content of their program.
Jones told the newspaper: ‘Everything is silly. If you turn us on halfway through, and think that the real Harry Kane has really had his patio tile cracked by Stormzy, you might need to have a little look at yourself.’
Describing the characters as ‘heroes’, he added the purpose of the show was to ‘[reimagine] them with everyday problems’ – and argues that one of the most common and universal problems people have is irritating neighbors.
Speaking about the origin of the show, Jones, who was already dabbling in deepfake technology, said he was approached by the production company Tiger Aspects after some of his work in the field had gone viral after the Sheffield international documentary festival.
Among the high-profile celebrities recreated in the comedy are Nicki Minaj and Spiderman’s Tom Holland (pictured)
Spencer Jones, the show’s co-creator, insists the comedy does not deal with serious subjects and makes it clear the figures are not real (pictured: ‘Stormzy’, ‘Harry Kane’)
He claims the production company asked if he could use the technology for longer projects, and so he began mocking up deepfake versions of the famous faces – albeit with different lifestyles.
Among his characters are an ever-so-slightly overweight Idris Elba (a stark contrast from the real-life toned heartthrob) and a mumsy-looking Kim Kardashian.
One actress on the show, Katia Kvinge, plays several different roles including environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg – and she argued there are benefits to not showing her face in her appearances.
She said: ‘One morning before work, I was so tired. But then I was like: “Oh, it’s fine, my face isn’t on camera today.”‘
To ensure viewers are not left confused by the deepfake technology, the end of each episode shows the false faces falling away from the faces of each character so the actor’s real identity can be seen and it is clear the episode has been a simulation.
However, when the actors are in their roles, they have to take steps to ensure the AI effect looks as real as possible.
Francis explained the performers can’t make too sudden or jolting movements as it would stop the AI from sticking – which took Kvinge time to get used to.
Other things that put a spanner in the AI technology included filming in the rain and making exaggerated facial expressions.