Silicone masks are becoming more realistic, and soon cheaper. So much so that they could pose a security threat, according to researchers.
Would the masks be even more effective than the deep fake, this technique based on artificial intelligence and to replace faces by others in videos? Those hyperrealists, made from soft materials like silicone and designed to mimic real human faces – up to the slightest freckle, with wrinkles and real locks of human hair – could in any case constitute a risk According to a new study by the Universities of York and Kyoto and published this Wednesday in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications.
"We wanted to know how realistic masks are today, and we've been using them to disguise ourselves for a very long time, but technology has grown – especially thanks to Hollywood – to a point where people might not realize that "They're looking at someone wearing one of these masks," says Rob Jenkins, a researcher in York University's Department of Psychology, in a video published for the occasion, "so we've created an extremely simple experiment, we've showed pairs of photos, one of a real face, the other of a person wearing a mask, and asked participants to say who was wearing the mask. "
As a result, participants displayed an error rate of 20%, which is a wrong answer for four good ones. This error rate, achieved as part of an experiment where participants know that one of the two faces is false, could be much higher in normal condition, say the researchers. "In addition, we showed them examples of masks before the test began," says Rob Jenkins, "and in the real world, many people do not even know that these masks exist and do not pay much attention to them."
The experiment, conducted in Japan and the United Kingdom, also showed that when two Asian faces are shown to a Briton, and vice versa, the response time is slower and the correct response rate decreases by 5%.
Masks for criminal purposes
Above all, scientists point out that there are already a dozen cases in which criminals have managed to pretend to be people of another age, gender or skin color, which is why has often disrupted police investigations. One of the most emblematic cases remains that of an international gang that used, in 2015, a hyperrealist mask of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. This allowed them to steal more than 80 million euros from rich victims, including Prince Aga Khan or the owner of the Château Margaux vineyard.
"Not being able to detect synthetic faces could have security implications," said Jet Sanders, researcher at York University and co-author of the study, "for example, the police may be following in the footsteps of a person whose physical appearance is that of the mask, and if these masks still cost more than 1000 euros each, it is quite possible that advances in manufacturing techniques will cause a future fall in prices, and therefore a more common use. "