Humans ready to trust new digital life form

31 May 2019
Love/Machine panel to debate "avatar" impact
The Business School's MOTUS Lab has found that the latest generation of digital humans are indistinguishable from real human faces and that people are ready to trust these faces in online interactions.
Illustration of a digital human leaving the screen


The video shows Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Speaking directly to viewers, the former US President threatens to punish ISIS terrorists by forcing them to watch endless episodes of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

A second video - to be shown for the first time at Sydney’s Vivid festival - begins with President Donald Trump singing the John Lennon song "Imagine". He is joined by a string of world leaders – Putin, May, Shinzo Abe and even North Korea’s Kim Jong-il.

Politically explosive material, perhaps, but the videos are not real. They rather represent the latest advances in computer graphics generated by artificial intelligence. It is technology that is bound to revolutionise the way that humans interact with machines.

"In our love for machines, we build machines in our image," says the University of Sydney Business School’s Professor Kai Riemer. "With this technology, we are now on the cusp of creating a new human 'species' digitally generated by artificial intelligence."

A panel discussion on the business, political, social, moral and legal implications, as well as the effect of digital "avatars" on everyday life, will be a ground-breaking feature of next month's Vivid Sydney Ideas 2019.

"When put on our smartphone, digital humans will become life-like presences in our daily lives," said Professor Riemer as he previewed the discussion. "How will we treat them? How will it change our interactions and relationships with each other when we can give ourselves any image we desire?"

Will digital humans be used to deceive and defraud us? What does a world look like in which fake humans are both indistinguishable from us real ones – and readily available to anyone?
Professor Kai Riemer

Joining the panel event, titled Love/Machine, will be one of the world’s leading developers of digital humans, Hao Li, an assistant professor of Computer Science at the University of Southern California.

Dr Hao is also the founder and CEO of Pinscreen, a computational imaging company at the cutting edge of avatar creation and facial performance capture.

Professor Riemer will also be joining the Love/Machine panel as will the Director of Sydney Business Insights, Dr Sandra Peter, Michela Ledwidge of MOD Studio, and MOTUS Lab’s lead researcher, Mike Seymour.

"There is now an arms race going on between those creating fake digital humans and those trying to detect such deceptions," says Mike Seymour. "This is only going to intensify."

"What is unprecedented is the speed at which this technology has gone from being very expensive, time-consuming and confined to a lab to something anyone can run on their smartphone," says Dr Sandra Peter. "At this speed, it is not at all clear that we are prepared for what is to come."

Vivid Ideas brings together the world's greatest minds, innovators and creatives for a program of public talks, industry seminars, conferences, workshops and debates exploring creativity as a catalyst for change and celebrating Sydney as a creative industries hub of Asia Pacific. 

The Love/Machine panel discussion will be held between 5.30pm and 7pm on Friday 7th June 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), The Rocks, Sydney. Book tickets via the Vivid Sydney website.