A.I. website generates realistic pictures of fake people

A powerful new development in AI technology is behind a website that is able to generate lifelike images of people who don’t actually exist.

When you visit ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com a photorealistic image is generated of a person that can be male or female, young or old and of any race. When you refresh the webpage a new ‘photo’ is shown.

So striking are the results that it is easy to be fooled into thinking you are looking at a real person. In fact it is the result of an advanced algorithm and A.I. technology.

It is only with closer examination that imperfections such as odd pixel artefacts, non-uniform teeth and overly-symmetrical faces indicate the artistic hand of a computer.

Photo of Philip Wang, wearing glasses, looking at camera
©Philip Wang creator of ThisPersonDoesNotExist

Philip Wang, a software engineer at Uber, used research from chipmaker Nvidia which it has made open source so anybody can legally use it.

Nvidia created a generative adversarial network (GAN) which it called StyleGAN. A GAN is a type of A.I. that is split in two. The first part is called a generator; this particular GAN tries to create a realistic human face. The other part is called a discriminator, which evaluates the results for believability. The generator then uses this critique to improve its calculations so that, with time, the faces become more and more realistic.

StyleGAN is able to automatically separate an image into different areas called ‘styles’ and then vary them. These are Coarse styles which include pose, hair and face shape; Middle styles which are facial features and eyes; and Fine styles which is the colour scheme.

Writing on his Facebook page, Wang explained his motivations for making this website, saying he did it to “raise some public awareness for this technology”.

This video explains how StyleGAN works:

Whilst it is fun to use the website to look into the eyes of a person who does not exist there are some concerns that this type of A.I. technology may be misused. Last year advanced A.I. called Deep Fakes was released that allows the face of a person to be transposed on to video footage of another person.

People on the internet used this to make pornographic videos with the faces of celebrities supplanted on the pornographic actors. However, once it improves it could have a more nefarious use, creating a video of an innocent person committing a crime.

The ThisPersonDoesNotExist website has already spawned several other websites that use the StyleGAN technology including ThisCatDoesNotExist.com for creating cats, ThisWaifuDoesNotExist.net for creating anime love interests and ThisRentalDoesNotExist.com which creates AirBnB-like property listings.

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