Chinese face-swapping app Zao rocketed to the top of Chinese app store charts within three days of release. The app allows users to drop a single image of their face, to replace people in popular movies, TV shows, and musical performances – all within seconds. The result is a downright very realistic deepfake video generated by machine learning.
See this video of a Chinese user replacing himself as Leonardo DiCaprio:
In case you haven’t heard, #ZAO is a Chinese app which completely blew up since Friday. Best application of ‘Deepfake’-style AI facial replacement I’ve ever seen.
Here’s an example of me as DiCaprio (generated in under 8 secs from that one photo in the thumbnail) ? pic.twitter.com/1RpnJJ3wgT
— Allan Xia (@AllanXia) September 1, 2019
Or this of a user replacing himself as Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory:
Chinese viral deepfakes app #ZAO Clip of myself as Sheldon generated in a few seconds from a single picture. pic.twitter.com/JI7MqWUDu6
— Matthew Brennan (@mbrennanchina) September 1, 2019
Zao was developed by Momo, the maker of a popular Chinese dating app. Users were uploading their Zao deepfakes on WeChat and other social media platforms in China.
You just need one image, and why this matters: The app represents a radical advance in technology, as it can create convincing deepfake videos with just one image of the user, as opposed to the need to for hundreds of images for AI so that an app could create a convincing reproduction. As Gizmodo writes, users can provide multiple photos of themselves following on-screen prompts asking them to blink, open their mouths, and so on, to reproduce videos consisting of these actions – and the result is apparently neat.
Zao reportedly received a barrage of criticism from users over privacy, the app’s ratings went down and negative comments flooded the app reviews on the app store.
WeChat restricted access to Zao: WeChat blocked content shared from Zao, users can reportedly still upload Zao-created videos on WeChat but if they try to download the app or send an invite link to another user, WeChat shows a message stating that “this web page has been reported multiple times and contains security risks”, and access has been blocked.
What Zao is saying: A statement posted on Sept. 1 to Zao’s Weibo account says “we completely understand everybody’s concerns about the privacy issue. We are aware of the issue and we are thinking about how to fix the problems, we need a little time.” (accessed from TechCrunch)
Videos deleted from Zao are still available online: A twitter user said that after deleting the video he uploaded on Zao, it wasn’t available in the app’s ‘My Creations’ tab. However, the user said that Zao wasn’t entirely deleting the video since he could still access it on the internet. He also said that this goes against the app’s claims that it “will follow correct legal procedures to ensure the deletion of relevant data”.
Yesterday, thanks to the #ZAO app I created a video with my face on Sheldon Cooper. This morning, I deleted the video in the app (no more available in « My Creation » tab)
Guess what? #ZAO is not deleting your video. The video is still available online: https://t.co/sQJf7cknOw pic.twitter.com/p3Jw96OjWk
— Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) September 3, 2019