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Bizarre real time face-substitution system demonstrated


September 21, 2011

Digital artist Arturo Castro has put together and demonstrated a video application that maps the faces of celebrities onto his own, in real time

Digital artist Arturo Castro has put together and demonstrated a video application that maps the faces of celebrities onto his own, in real time

Some day in the not-too-distant future, you may be on a service like Chatroulette, and suddenly find yourself matched up with a person who looks exactly like Angelina Jolie. Well, chances are it won't really be her. Instead, it will likely be someone using the descendant of a system put together by Arturo Castro. Using a combination of existing software, the Barcelona digital artist has demonstrated how a variety of famous faces can be mapped onto his own, moving with it in real time. While Castro's system isn't likely to fool anyone - in its present version - it's an unsettling indication of what could be possible with just a little more finessing.

Castro's application was created using openFrameworks, an open source framework for creative coding. This was combined with FaceTracker, which produces a virtual mesh that matches a human subject's facial features. The colors of the famous faces were blended with those of Arturo's own using an image clone code developed by artist Kevin Atkinson. Finally, the FaceTracker meshes were wrapped around his face using the ofxFaceTracker add-on for openFrameworks.

The resulting video, which can be seen below, alternates between being funny and just plain creepy, with Castro taking on the identities of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton.

His collaborator Kyle McDonald, who developed ofxFaceTracker, utilized a different blending algorithm for more lifelike results.

It's not hard to imagine the shenanigans that could result, should more advanced forms of this technology be used for the wrong purposes - is that really your best friend on Skype, asking you for that money? Is that really Mick Jagger telling us how white our sheets can be? The whole thing kind of brings this fella to mind.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I hope this software puts overpaid actors out of work.


This has got to be the COOLEST thing I\'ve seen as far as software goes. I WANT ONE!!


Idea\'s been around for decades. The usual use in fiction has been to avoid having to get dressed and made-up for remote conferencing by using the avatar of your own face.

People like to believe that they can believe their eyes--despite the popularity of illusionists who confuse ans astound them regularly.

What you see is determined by your brain as much as by what is visually preceptable.

And no, it won\'t put actors out of work--the person behind the mask STILL has to perform properly through an entire segment or clip.

Besides, the actor \'Star\' system was created to involve the audience in an off-screen fantasy life.

The hard question is: All identification methods for computers to id people require that the data be converted into a signal--which can be copied & intercepted & used again. How do we know that the \'person\' is the one they say they are, despite the id--which may be false? Even DNA tests currently can be defeated physically as well as electronically since the comparison is, like fingerprints and retinal scans and all other bio-metrics, based upon a sub-set of the entire data stream available.

The best any security system can say is that it can be defeated only by spending more than it cost--which is seldom true, most such systems can be defeated easily (or at least at lower cost) if you find the correct approach.

Charles Barnard

The number one use will be kids masquerading as their parents to get out of \'algebra\' tests.

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