A Star Trek fan deepfaked Next Generation-era Data into the new Picard series

Brent Spiner reprised his role as Lt. Cmdr. Data for the 2020 CBS All Access series Star Trek: Picard, and while it was certainly a nice touch to see Spiner play the iconic synthetic life form for the first time in years, there was no getting around the fact that the character didn’t look entirely like the Mr. Data fans remember from his Star Trek: The Next Generation heyday.

However, Star Trek fans are a tech-savvy bunch, and it didn’t take long for one of them to spring into action to right this particular wrong — with the aid of some cutting-edge deepfake technology.

“I’m a lifelong Star Trek fan, and have been making these videos for more than two years,” Deep Homage, a U.S.-based deepfake creator who requested to remain anonymous, told Digital Trends. “I like the Star Trek: Picard series very much, but I found Data’s ‘makeover’ a little jarring, having seen Next Generation Data for so many years.”

Since Data appears in dream sequences in Picard, Deep Homage felt that it would make far more sense for Jean-Luc to remember Data’s younger self from their days together on the Enterprise. Deep Homage therefore set about creating a digitally de-aged Data deepfake (try saying that 10 times quickly) using deep learning-based face-swap technology. The results provide a tantalizing alternative to the Data seen in Picard.

“The process involves training a computer model with thousands of example images of both faces, derived from video footage,” Deep Homage said. “It takes at least a week to train the model to re-create the face, and then the footage is converted with the model and edited.”

Deepfakes have been used for a variety of creative, filmic applications — whether it’s swapping out Arnie Schwarzenegger for Sly Stallone in Terminator 2 or creating an alternative speech by former President Richard Nixon regarding the moon landing. Increasingly, they’re finding their ways into regular movies and TV shows, too. Recently, similar A.I. technology was used to create a de-aged Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker for the Disney+ show The Mandalorian.

“Deepfake technology is evolving and getting better, and creative people are taking the lead in using it,” Deep Homage said. “If you were to compare the videos made in 2020 with those made in 2018, I think you would notice that the resolution of the face is better, and the level of detail is higher — especially in the skin and the eyes.”

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