In film and video games, we’ve already seen what’s possible with ‘digital humans’. Are we on the brink of the world’s first totally virtual acting star?
When you’re watching a modern blockbuster such as The Avengers, it’s hard to escape the feeling that what you’re seeing is almost entirely computer-generated imagery, from the effects to the sets to fantastical creatures. But if there’s one thing you can rely on to be 100% real, it’s the actors. We might have virtual pop stars like Hatsune Miku, but there has never been a world-famous virtual film star.
Even that link with corporeal reality, though, is no longer absolute. You may have already seen examples of what’s possible: Peter Cushing (or his image) appearing in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story more than 20 years after his death, or Tupac Shakur performing from beyond the grave at Coachella in 2012. We’ve seen the terrifying potential of deepfakes – manipulated footage that could play a dangerous role in the fake news phenomenon. Jordan Peele’s remarkable fake Obama video is a key example. Could technology soon make professional actors redundant?