Star Trek Fan Deepfaked Next Generation Data Into Picard

Brent Spiner repeated his role as Lt. Cmdr. Dates for the 2020 CBS All Access series Star Trek: Picard, and while it was certainly a nice touch to see Spiner play the iconic synthetic life form again for the first time in years, there was no avoiding the character not doing Sees just like how Mr. Data fans remember his heyday in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Star Trek fans are a tech-savvy bunch, however, and it wasn’t long before one of them took action to fix this particular problem – using cutting-edge deepfake technology.

“I’ve been a lifelong Star Trek fan and have been making these videos for over two years,” said Deep Homage, a US-based deepfake creator who wanted to remain anonymous, told Digital Trends. “I really like the Star Trek: Picard series, but I found Datas’ makeover a little irritating after watching Next Generation Data for so many years.”

Since Data appears in dream sequences in Picard, Deep Homage felt that it would make far more sense for Jean-Luc to remember Data’s younger self from their days together on the Enterprise. So Deep Homage began creating a digitally obsolete data deepfake (try to say that quickly ten times) using deep learning-based face-swap technology. The results offer a tempting alternative to the data shown in Picard.

“The process involves training a computer model with thousands of sample images of both faces taken from video,” said Deep Homage. “It takes at least a week to train the model to recreate the face. Then the footage is converted and edited with the model.”

Deepfakes have been used for a variety of creative, cinematic applications – be it for the replacement of Arnie Schwarzenegger for Sly Stallone in Terminator 2 or for an alternative speech by former President Richard Nixon on the moon landing. They are also increasingly finding their way into regular movies and TV shows. Recently, similar AI technology was used to create an aged Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker for the Disney + show The Mandalorian.

“Deepfake technology is evolving and getting better, and creative people are taking the lead in using it,” said Deep Homage. “If you were to compare the 2020 videos to the 2018 ones, you’d likely find that the resolution of the face is better and the level of detail is higher – especially when it comes to skin and eyes.”

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