Negative reaction to a new AI-based reality show has come fast and furious since its debut July 6 on Netflix.
Made in Spain, the show -- titled in English “Deep Fake Love” -- puts couples’ love and trust to the test using artificial intelligence (AI) technology.
The show is being described as “emotionally painful” and “the cruelest show on Netflix” and TV generally.
The show “preys on our every fear of AI,” wrote one online critic. The show “employs AI as a cruel tactic to make participants suffer,” wrote another.
“Deep Fake Love” (original Spanish title “Falso Amor”) is a relationship reality show in which partners are confronted with videos of their significant others “interacting” with someone else -- flirting, exchanging passionate kisses and more.
But here’s the catch: Some of these scenes are real, but others have been created using AI technology in which body doubles are substituted for the show’s participants to make the videos.
Most importantly, AI technology enabled the producers of the show to place the faces of the show’s participants on these body doubles so seamlessly that their distressed partners are completely taken in by the ruse.
Thus, the challenge for these participants is to guess what is “realidad o ficción” (reality or fiction), in the words of host Raquel Sánchez Silva in a promotional video.
The TV Blog’s proficiency in Spanish is rudimentary at best from living en Nueva York, so assessing the show on its merits or otherwise is not something I can reliably do.
So I am leaving that to some of the many online news and entertainment websites that have weighed in on the show.
One of them, the TV site Primetimer.com, described in detail how the AI technology was used. Indeed, the process is apparently explained on the show for the benefit of viewers, not the participants (at least initially).
“The series demonstrates exactly how it employs the AI alterations, showing a split screen of an interaction between two people whose faces simply got very close without touching or, in some cases, bodies that are very far away from each other, next to two actors with similar colorings, body types, and outfits kissing or laying on top of each other,” the website said.
“Through a scanning visual effect, the faces of those who didn’t kiss are scanned onto those who did, showing how easily the eerie technology can be employed.
“This leads to some disturbing re-interpretations of perfectly innocent moments created to 'test’ each contestant’s significant other.
“In the first episode alone, AI is used to make it appear that one man is trashing the entirety of his five-year relationship and another woman is having a hot and heavy makeout [session] with someone else.
“Throughout the series, the deep fakes get even raunchier,” the website said, “showing halves of couples getting into bed with singles, using AI to impose their likeness onto actors feigning having sex.”
Other commentaries noted that AI and its use is one of the issues in the Writers Guild and SAG-AFTRA strikes that are now roiling Hollywood.
“ ‘Deep Fake Love’ isn’t just an experience in causing totally unnecessary psychological damage to the contestants’ personal lives, but also sets a grim precedent for the future of AI,” wrote Euronews.com.
“This is at the forefront of the minds of many of those currently striking for SAG-AFTRA in Hollywood and the industry as a whole.
“One of their main reasons for striking is to ‘established a comprehensive set of provisions to protect human-created work and require informed consent and fair compensation when a ‘digital replica’ is made of a performer, or when their voice, likeness or performance will be substantially changed using AI’,” the site said.
For its part, Netflix positions the show as “innovative.” “ ‘Deep Fake Love’ is an innovative format in which five couples face deepfake [spelling and italics theirs] technology, an artificial intelligence technique that modifies images, forcing them to differentiate [between] what is real and what is not,” says a statement on the Netflix press site.
The couples “will test their relationships and their trust, with a prize of 100,000 euros at stake,” Netflix says.