Leaked Google Pixel 8 ad reveals an AI photo tool that can swap facial expressions

Cal Jeffrey

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In brief: The upcoming Google Pixel 8 has some pretty cool AI-driven camera features. One allows users to drag or remove objects or people in a photo. Another offers control of background noises in videos. However, there's an expression-swapping feature that people are describing as creepy.

A Pixel 8 promotional video leaked to 91mobiles shows a user taking a photo of a family on a carousel. After taking the picture, the user swaps expressions on three of the subjects to "correct" things like looking away and goofy faces. However, something about the swaps isn't quite right. They teeter on the edge above the uncanny valley, and folks on X (formerly Twitter) have negatively reacted to the feature.

Others have similar sentiments:

"That is actually creepy, a photo should be a time capsule of reality."

"Remember when Samsung's "Photo Remaster" got torn apart hard because it added teeth to baby photos? I don't want to see anyone making an excuse for this. This is plain wrong."

"No, no one wants this feature."

"This is creepy, NGL!"

Many misunderstand how the tech works, but that does not change the genuine reactions to the results. There is something off about the edited faces.

The feature uses AI, but not in a way that directly alters the face. Instead, it picks expressions from a series of photos and inserts them on to the subjects. You can see in the video (below) that the camera snaps four consecutive images. The AI then offers a choice of three alternate faces grabbed from the other photos. So, the expressions are genuine and not generated by AI.

However, to make the faces correctly match the body, there must be some small AI adjustments to make it fit. These adjustments might be what create the uncanny valley effect. The feature might work better to correct things like an eye blink or a missed smile for subjects that remain mostly still, but plopping a face turned to the camera onto a body looking down is a strange adjustment that the AI obviously can't make look right. Or perhaps it is just an illusion that you cannot unsee after watching the video.

That said, The Google Pixel 8 has more welcomed AI-camera functions. Magic Editor is a tool from Google Photos that allows users to remove unwanted background objects or reposition the subject by simply tapping or dragging. Pixel 8 owners can harness the power of Magic Editor right from the phone app. Other helpful Pixel 8 camera features include manual focus, dark and low-light autocorrection, and background volume controls in videos.

Google has not officially unveiled the Pixel 8 line, but leaked invites indicate it will hold a reveal on October 4, along with pre-orders or an outright launch the same day.

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Isn't this dangerous? You could commit a crime and make victim look happy and get away with it?
If your victim was a photograph with no way to testify against you.

And all other evidence magically disappeared like the background.

So... no.
UNLESS in the meta data, there is a way for it to say "hey, this photo is not real" you know there will be plenty of bad actors, using this for political & monetary gain.
This is horrible. I have family members that terrorize and mutilate us in pictures we weren't smiling in, by using "apps" that plaster fake smiles and teeth over our faces. The results are disturbing and they're obviously fake.

I stopped putting up with it and avoid being in pictures with them whenever possible for this very reason. I also have to make sure they don't take pictures of me with their phones only to digitally mutilate my face and post it on Facebook without my consent.

We stopped going out together and this sort of "innovation" will only push us apart even further.

This is really bad.
There is no doubt that other companies may follow eventually. Although Google says it will not directly alter the person's face, if it can for other parameters then it can for faces. It's a matter of time when it will happen. If AI is implemented for this reason, will phone pictures now become more questionable when used as evidence? Only photo forensics will tell. Just think what CGI did for videos.
Wow, from fake news to fake images that they are tolerating. Very well done (slow clap).
The option is there. It's up to you to use it or not. People sound like the current phones do not offer the way to manipulate your photo. There are so many photo enhancer tools currently available that already make someone completely different from their real face.