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Playing With Reality – Issue #3 🚀🔮🌟

Thijs Pepping
April 06, 2021

Playing With Reality

“Playing with Reality” is the title of our upcoming book on synthetic media and the follow-up to our 2008 book “Me the Media”. Playing with Reality is about how humans continuously manipulate reality and how new digital technology tools enable us to go one step further in this ancient game. This includes modern phenomena like conspiracy theories such as QAnon, Deepfakes, and fake news, but also virtual humans such as CGI Influencer Lil Miquela and virtual worlds like Fortnite.

This Week’s Focus: Deepfakes

This week we focus on deepfake technology. For starters, the FBI warned in an alert that malicious actors “almost certainly” will be using deepfakes to advance their influence or cyber-operations in the coming weeks. Immediately after this alert, a story was published that a mother created deepfake videos of her daughter’s cheerleading rivals to harass them. But it’s not all doom and gloom, deepfakes can be used for good as well. Abraham Lincoln and Bob Ross were brought back to life to perform in a commercial and Nestlé created a cookie coach to help you in the kitchen.

FBI Alert Warns For Deepfakes

Malicious actors almost certainly will leverage synthetic content for cyber and foreign influence operations in the next 12- 18 months. Foreign actors are currently using synthetic content in their influence campaigns, and the FBI anticipates it will be increasingly used by foreign and criminal cyber actors for spearphishing and social engineering in an evolution of cyber operational tradecraft.

FBI alert warns of Russian, Chinese use of deepfake content – CyberScoopThe FBI is warning in a new alert that malicious foreign actors will soon be using deepfakes in both influence and  •  Share

FBI alert warns of Russian, Chinese use of deepfake content - CyberScoop

Philly Woman Used Deepfakes To Harass Cheerleading Squad

A Pennsylvania woman created “deepfake” videos of her daughter’s cheerleading rivals, depicting them naked, drinking and smoking. And then she sent them to her daughter’s coaches to try and get them kicked off the squad.

Pa. woman created ‘deepfake’ videos to force rivals off daughter’s cheerleading squad: police – pennlive.comThe woman is also accused of telling the teenagers “to kill themselves,” according to the Philadelphia  •  Share

Pa. woman created ‘deepfake’ videos to force rivals off daughter’s cheerleading squad: police -

A Realistic but Boring Cookie Coach

This one is for the cookie lovers. You can create a personalised cookie recipe with the help of Ruth. She is a virtual human that works for which is owned by Nestlé. Ruth understands what you’re saying and talks back to you thanks to Google’s natural language platform Dialogflow en Amazon’s Polly text-to-speech service. We tried to interview her, but she only talks recipe language. Is she creepy? Mmmm… she might have passed the uncanny valley, but to be honest: Ruth is boring. A realistic human machine without a real soul.

Nestlé’s Cookie AI Looks Creepy As Hell, But Could Improve Your BakingMeet Ruth, a blinking, talking “digital human” and “cookie coach.”  •  Share

Nestlé’s Cookie AI Looks Creepy As Hell, But Could Improve Your Baking

The End Of Voice Actors

What’s the use of voice actors if you can AI-clone the real voice of someone? The answer is: none. On the YouTube channel “Speaking of AI” you can watch a Simpson episode with the cloned voice of Donald Trump. But if you can clone Trump’s voice, you can also clone the voices of Simpsons’ real voice actors. That’s good news, because they are getting old. Is it bad news for voice actors in general? For those who are famous it is not. They just hand over de copyright of their voice. If you’re not famous… your job is lost.

Could ‘The Simpsons’ Replace Its Voice Actors With AI? | WIREDDeepfake technology can make convincing replicas from a limited amount of data, and the show has 30 years worth of audio to work  •  Share

Could 'The Simpsons' Replace Its Voice Actors With AI? | WIRED

Deepfakes, There’s An App For That

Ok, technically is an AI-powered lip sync app for iPhone and Android. Perfect? Not even close. Easy to create? Yes, in a few swipes we turned these Dutch politicians into rickrolling superstars. In the coming years synthetic media will turn your phone into a Hollywood studio.

Dutch politicians RickRolling. Test
Dutch politicians RickRolling. Test

Billie Eilish Deepfaked Into A 40’s Movie

One of the promises of synthetic media is that the viewer can become the main character in a movie. Just deepfake your own face of that of the actor, and your friends’ faces on the co-stars. This realistic deepfake of Billie Eilish gives a glimp of this personalized-movies-future.

Billie Eilish DeepFake into a 40's Movie!
Billie Eilish DeepFake into a 40’s Movie!

The Joy Of Painting MTN DEW With Bob Ross

Iconic painter Bob Ross died 25 years ago, but online his lessons continu to be an inspiration for new generations. Mountain Dew has created the Lost Episode with painter Bob Ross by using deepfake technology. In this episode, you’ll learn how to paint a fantastic little winter scene with a MTN DEW in it. Synthetic media allows marketers to tap into nostalgia by reworking old media into new ads. Expect to see more of these types of commercials in the near future!

The Joy Of Painting MTN DEW with Bob Ross | Full Episode
The Joy Of Painting MTN DEW with Bob Ross | Full Episode

Abraham Lincoln Discovers His Family History

Abraham Lincoln is one of the most prominent figures in the history of the United States, and one of the most influential presidents of all time. To mark his birthday on February 12, used state-of-the-art technology so you can now see Lincoln like never before, as he explores his own family history.

Abraham Lincoln Discovers His Family History on MyHeritage
Abraham Lincoln Discovers His Family History on MyHeritage

Viewers Tip

Next week, on the 21st of March, a new documentary about the QAnon conspiracy theory will be broadcasted on HBO.

Q: Into the Storm (2021) | Official Trailer | HBO
Q: Into the Storm (2021) | Official Trailer | HBO

VINT In The News

We were interviewed by the Dutch newspaper Parool. They wanted to now our opinion about cops using TikTok to get into contact with Generation Z. Of course, it’s always a good thing to communicate with young people in their own language, but there is also the risk that by using new media technology serious police work becomes entertainment. Or as Neil Postman used to say: “When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

Jeugdagent Kim danst en lacht op TikTok, maar spreekt ook vermanend toe | Het ParoolOp TikTok lijkt de politie weer als vanouds de beste kameraad, met jeugdagenten die vrolijke challenges afwisselen met serieuze uitleg en vermaning…  •  Share

Jeugdagent Kim danst en lacht op TikTok, maar spreekt ook vermanend toe | Het Parool

VINT Summit: The Reality Show

On the 15th of June 2021 we are organizing our yearly summit. This year we try to answer the question how digital technology is changing our relationship with reality. So if you want to know more about deepfakes, virtual humans, cgi influencers, synthetic media, AR, VR and mixed reality, please register yourself. And it’s free!


Playing with Reality is a weekly newsletter in which SogetiLabs’s Research Institute VINT examines the future where synthetic reality becomes part or our objective reality. We investigate the impact of new technology on people, organisations and our society. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact us. You can reach us at

About the author

Trend Analyst VINT | Netherlands
Thijs Pepping is a humanistic trend analyst in the field of new technologies. He is part of the think tank within SogetiLabs and in his work he continuously wonders and analyses what the impact of New Technologies is on our lives, organizations and society.


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