FaceTime will soon digitally correct eye-contact. How fake is too fake?
There was this girl in my high school named Murphy. Murphy was in the drama club. If you ever met her in public, you would never guess she had the acting bug. She was on the small side, very pretty, but oh so shy and quiet. If you remember the character Lucy from “The Big Bang Theory?” who played Raj’s love interest at one point, Murphy was that shy and quiet. Some of you might already know what happens next because you had a Murphy at your school. Put her on stage and she could be anyone. I’m certain she could play Hilary Rodham Clinton with ease…the Kate MacKinnon version, or larger than life fictional characters like Elle Woods or Nanny Fine (YouTube search with caution). Murphy would erupt out of her shell on stage to everyone’s amazement, whether you knew she was shy or not, she was a powerhouse performer.
I have wondered to this day how that worked. If you can portray yourself to be anyone, success must surely follow you around like a lost puppy. If I could portray the confidence of a Fortune 500 CEO or presidential front runner, surely I could be either of those things. Right? You’ve seen Catch Me if You Can. It’s a proven concept.
Even if you don’t know a Murphy, you definitely know the opposite, someone who seems so confident in closed circles but crumbles in public or in front of strangers. I am generally good at speaking to strangers. My weakness is eye-contact. I know I need to work on it. I also know that fixing it would take my portrayed confidence to the next level. That is why this next technology is so interesting to me.
The next version of FaceTime on iOS is going to have the ability to correct (fake) eye contact. I don’t believe the intent is to alter perceived confidence. It does, however fix the issue of the camera offset. The seemingly unsolvable problem caused by the camera not being where your attention is directed while in a conference. You can look directly at the camera, sure, but then you don’t see the participants at the other end who are “not” looking back at you. Apple has come up with an ingenious solution. Just fake it. You will soon be able to have an intimate eye-to-eye FaceTime and it will seem natural. Keyword “seem”, as the eyes you are seeing on your family, friend or colleague will actually be reconstructed in real-time by algorithms.
What if you are someone like me who has an eye contact issue? This technology sounds perfect! My confidence problems will all be digitally corrected. Hopefully nobody will wonder why I seem so much more confident behind the veil of my cell phone than in person. I will simply need to meet via teleconference for the rest of my working life. No problem.
You may have already seen similar technology. Zoom has the “brush up appearance” checkbox. (I already look fabulous so it doesn’t work on me). Many of the conferencing platforms have the ability to change your background. I would never use that feature because I definitely work in a financial district 30th floor corner office and not the basement of a split-entry in the woods like some peasant.
I would like to see Apple’s camera angle technology be taken to room systems. I’ve seen the meeting room camera installed in every position. Above the screen, below the screen, between two screens. We finally have the technology to digitally insert the camera in the screen. Perfection.
Obviously, changing the entire field of view digitally would take a lot more processing and correction than replacing just the eyes. I am sure we will initially see this technology only correct eye placement, but evolve to correcting angle of view which will basically have to completely recreate the image. Instead of seeing a far-end that is 1–2% corrected, it will be nearly 100% digitally recreated. Nothing you see will actually be real, but a rendering of what is “probably” real based on what the camera sees. Turn on the “replace background”,”brush-up appearance” and “insert CEO” features (she goes to ALL the meetings) and you will see a modern boardroom full of confident, beautiful people with freshly ironed clothes, immaculate hair and smiles for days. So fake.
I know I just lost a ton of you. You were with me on the eye-contact thing but then I went and took it too far. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this technology is just around the corner whether you are ready for it or not. It leaves us with a ton of existential and ethical dilemmas. Could I send virtual Alexa to sit in on a meeting for me some day to take notes? Will the legal systems of the world need to step in and regulate this technology? Can they?
We aren’t all Murphy. We can not walk into a room and be as confident or as powerful as we would like to be. Luckily for us, (or to our end,) we will soon be able to turn it on in the settings menu.
Royalty-free photo by @rebrandcities.
Andrew Davis, CTS-D/I has been in the commercial audio/visual industry for 13 years acting as a programmer, designer, installer and business owner.
Andrew is currently a Collaboration Solutions Programmer for IgniteCSG, headquartered in Calgary, Canada. He is active on Twitter as an #AVTweeps and frequently contributes to industry dialog on social media.