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Zao is a Chinese deepfake app that puts your face into famous movies and it’s blowing up like crazy

Oh sure, this will end well.

deepfakes ai steve buscemi jennifer lawrence
Image: Twitter / @MikaelThalen

Whelp, there’s a new, terrifying iPhone app in China. Zao uses deepfake AI tech to put your face into clips from popular TV shows, movies, or even games. All it needs is one selfie, and it’s still topping the Chinese App Store charts.

It might seem like harmless fun, but a line in the terms and conditions sparked a privacy backlash. That line suggested that Zao’s creators could keep and reuse their images forever. Nice way to build up a database for facial recognition, eh?

Zao takes one selfie of your face as input and can remap your features onto a dizzying range of actors, singers, and even video game characters. It uses the same AI tech that’s been used recently to disfigure the Full House cast, put Steve Buscemi onto Jennifer Lawrence’s face, and other acts of hilarity.

It can also be used to change what people have said, making video transcripts almost unusable. Well, except for the AI created to detect the fakes

Here’s what we know

  • The app was created by Chinese developer MoMo
  • You can’t get it outside of China, as you need a Chinese phone number to use their version of Apple’s App Store
  • WeChat, one of the most popular chat services in China, blocked the use of Zao on its network

If MoMo brings the Zao app to the West, will we trust anything online ever again? I mean if you can deepfake your way into movies, why stop there? Why not deepfake you playing golf with celebrities or any of a million similar situations?

What do you think? Worried about the future of deepfake technology? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek with nearly half a decade of blogging experience at KnowTechie, SlashGear and XDA Developers. If it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't), Joe probably has one around his office somewhere, with particular focus in gadgetry and handheld gaming. Shoot him an email at joe@knowtechie.com.

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