I’m about to test your ability to spot the difference between a real human face and a computer generated face.

If you’re like me, you probably think this will be an easy task. You’ve seen computer generated faces in movies and games.   There’s always something to give them away – a little plastic looking?  The light isn’t quite right?

Well this is going to both surprise and scare you!

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be growing at an exponential rate.  A sign of this development can be seen in the results of a new technology called Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN).

Where this becomes particularly sci-fi is that scientists are intentionally battling computer algorithms against each other.

In this scenario, one team develops an algorithm to analyse existing photographs to determine whether the photo is real or not.   You can then run this program across the billions of photos on the internet to “train” it.

In parallel, another team develops a separate algorithm to “design” human faces.   Using a database of traits and patterns, the algorithm over time starts to build an image of what it thinks looks like a human face.

What slows this process down is having a “real” human involved.   If someone has to check the results of the thousands of simulated human faces, it’s going to take a while!    Now feed the results of this into the opposing algorithm that spots human faces and you have feedback loop that is only limited by the speed of the computers involved.

Instead of checking a face every few seconds, it can be checked in milliseconds.   And the feedback is instant.   The system as a whole learns very quickly how to create a human face, that passes as real.

Don’t believe me?

Well, you can give it a try at the following website:


Here you’re provided with two faces, one real and one fake.  The fake one being generated by a computer algorithm.

It’s surprising just how difficult this test is!

The fakes are generated by a website called http://thispersondoesnotexist.com

When you see just how real these “fakes” are, it’ll make you wonder just what’s real.   Now you’ll wonder – when you see a photograph, is it a real person?

In a few years it’ll be impossible to tell the difference from a computer-generated face and a real one.

In-fact technology is now reaching the point where video can be simulated almost as seamlessly as static images.   It’s possible to computer generate a fake video of someone talking to the camera and have it in-distinguishable from reality.

I get the feeling we’re going to see more of this in the run up to the next US elections.   It’s going to be increasingly difficult to determine what’s real and what’s fake!