The AI camera stripping away privacy in the blink of an eye

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It’s natural to be leery regarding the ways in which people may use artificial intelligence to cause problems for society in the near future. On a personal level, you may be concerned about a future where artificial intelligence takes your job or creates a Terminator that comes back in time to try to eliminate a younger you. (We admittedly might be overthinking that one.)

One fear regarding AI on a personal level that you should know about because it’s very much in the present is the creation of deepfake photos, including those that strip you of the most basic of privacy rights: the right to protect images of your body.

Two German artists recently created a camera called NUCA that uses AI to create deepfake photos of subjects by stripping away their clothing. The automated removal of the photo subject’s clothing occurs in close to real-time, speeding up the creepy factor exponentially.

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Why would someone create an AI camera that removes clothing?

The two German artists, Mathias Vef and Benedikt Groß, decided to create the camera to show the implications of AI’s rapid advancements. The pair were trying to think of the worst possible uses of AI to affect someone’s privacy, and they realized that the technology needed to create a camera like NUCA was already possible.

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The two artists hope that people will consider the dangers of continuing to develop AI technologies like this, which could eliminate the expectation of privacy. They hope it will spark debates about the direction of AI.

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How does a camera that digitally strips away clothing work?

The German artists used 3D design and print software to create the lenses and the shell for controlling the camera. It then uses a smartphone on the inside of the shell that handles the image capture. NUCA passes the photo to the cloud for the application of AI that removes the subject’s clothing.

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The result of NUCA camera using AI to strip away clothing. (NUCA)

Of course, NUCA is not actually creating a photo of your naked body. Instead, it analyzes your gender, face, age and other aspects of your body shape to develop a replication of what AI believes your naked body would look like.

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Illustration of what NUCA camera analyzes to create image. (NUCA)

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Doesn’t deepfake nude photo technology already exist?

Deepfake nude photos, usually of celebrities, have been around for a long time on pornography websites, but the photos from NUCA require almost no technical know-how. 

Even more frightening, NUCA is able to perform the process within about 10 seconds. The immediacy of the creation of the deepfake nude photo is what sets NUCA apart from other fake nude photos that typically require quite a bit of editing skill and time. 

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NUCA’s deepfake dilemma: Artistic innovation or ethical Invasion?

Bottom line: Anyone could use the technology that’s found with NUCA to create a deepfake nude photo of almost anyone else within several seconds. NUCA doesn’t ask for permission to remove your clothing in the photo.

It’s worth emphasizing again that the two artists have no plans to allow others to use NUCA for commercial gain. They will showcase its capabilities in late June at an art exhibition in Berlin all in an effort to spark public debate.

However, the next people who develop a similar technology may choose to use it in a far different way, such as to potentially blackmail people by threatening to release these fake nude photos that other people won’t necessarily know are fake.

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Kurt’s key takeaways

If it feels like AI is expanding wildly in dozens of different directions all at once, you aren’t all that far off. Some of those directions will be helpful for society, but others are downright terrifying. As deepfakes continue to look more and more realistic, the line between a fake digital world and reality will become increasingly difficult to discern. Guarding our privacy will almost certainly be more and more difficult as AI strips away our safeguards … and, potentially, even our clothing. 

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