Deepfake Santa Claus Has Logged On
It’s not nearly as disturbing as you might think
Nothing says “Happy Holidays” like an A.I.-generated, deepfake Santa Claus delivering a personalized greeting to your loved ones. At least that’s what Synthesia — a synthetic media startup based in the United Kingdom — is hoping for with their new Synthesia Santa tool, which launched last week.
Synthesia Santa allows you to type up a script on Synthesia’s website (up to 300 characters or around 100 words), choose a festive holiday background, and press a button. After 15–30 minutes of processing time, you’ll receive a link to a realistic video of Santa Claus (well, actually an actor in a Santa costume, but don’t tell the children) reading your personalized script, complete with cheerful background music and animated falling snow. The service is free, but Synthesia collects your email address, which they use to send you your completed video.
It all looks very jolly and festive — like you hired a mall Santa to spread some holiday cheer to your loved ones, or perhaps met with one on Zoom. Except Synthesia Santa isn’t real. The videos are produced by Synthesia CREATE, the company’s proprietary synthetic video platform. Synthesia Santa is the product of advanced artificial intelligence algorithms running inside a computer, built using the same technologies behind deepfakes.
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Synthesia is no stranger to dramatic public demonstrations of their tech. In 2019 the company used its technologies to deepfake David Beckham, allowing a synthetic version of the soccer star to read an anti-malaria message in nine different languages as part of a campaign for Malaria Must Die. The campaign had reached 400 million people as of April of last year, according to TechCrunch.
Most days, though, Synthesia’s team spends its time on less dramatic fare. The company works with organizations including Reuters, Accenture, and the BBC to generate localized synthetic news reports in multiple languages, corporate training videos, and the like. Clients can…