How Facial Recognition Software Is Changing The Porn Industry
But is it ethical?
BY Luke O'Neil | Sep 28, 2016 | Sex & Relationships
There are a couple of reliable rules regarding pornography. First, any new technology will almost instantly be put to service in the pursuit of masturbation. Is there any doubt that roughly 30 seconds after the release of Snapchat's video Spectacles, for example, some enterprising onanist will slap them on with his pants down?
And then there's Rule 34: If you can imagine it, there is a porn version of it. This typically references cartoons, video game characters, and other less likely porn subjects. Determined masturbators have long duct-taped together workarounds, like hastily cut-and-pasted faces of celebrities affixed to other peoples' naked bodies. And as we saw in the celebrity phone hacks of a few years ago, on the extreme end of the matter, it's clear that many resort to extraordinarily unethical, gross, and downright criminal behaviour to get what they're after.
But as our collective appetite for porn, and more important, the specificity of the porn people are looking for, fractures into millions of individual appetites, the reliability of the above rule is being tested. Sometimes, even at this point in Extremely Postmodern Pornography, the porn you're looking for just doesn't exist.
Of course, we still have the greatest porn site ever devised—the mind. Still, as many people are accustomed to viewing pornography online, calling up a mental image of your amorous intent won't cut it. To bridge the gap, mouth-breathers on Reddit have forums dedicated to helping people find professional porn performers that resemble people from their real lives. One step further is a new offering from the massive Belgian-based sex-cam company megacams.me, which is using facial recognition software to search through its database of tens of thousands of live sex performers to find one that resembles a photo you upload.
As the site explains:
You can upload a picture of someone you want to see nude. Megacams will scan your image and match it with all our live sex models in our database. This way it feels like you are having live sex with the person in your picture. At Megacams we do everything so you can enjoy live sex with the models of your dreams.
The uploaded image is saved on a secure database and is deleted within 24 hours, the company promises.
A spokesperson from Megacams, Ward L, who declined to give his last name, told me that the software has been used over 100,000 times in the last few days.
"Everyone has their dream girl or guy, or someone they know that they want to get off with," he said. "I myself have this—that's why I knew there was going to be a demand for it."
"Everyone has their dream girl or guy, or someone they know that they want to get off with."
There are obviously a number of ethical implications at play here. The technology could be used for the opposite of its intent, for example, by people looking to out a performer, employer, ex, etc. Consent is also a complicated issue for this software. While the inherent problem of posting an image of a person, usually a woman, online without her consent for the purpose of masturbation has finally begun to get the attention it deserves—34 states have enacted revenge porn laws—what about actively seeking images and videos of people that simply look like someone you know? Beyond that, just how creepy is this sort of thing in the first place?
"That's up to the user to decide," Ward said. "We just give them the tools."
At the moment, the tools aren't quite working that well. Naturally, I uploaded a picture of myself to see what would show up. Here are two work-appropriate results:
Yikes. Not exactly what I was looking for. The only way this whole thing could be any sketchier is if someone was actually looking for their own doppelgänger to jerk off too.
"The matching is performing pretty good, depending on the image you upload," Ward explained. "Clear images are needed. The algorithm will definitely improve hour-by-hour as it's learning all faces of webcam models that are online. The more snapshots the algorithm has of one cam model, the better it can start matching. So come back often, as you will see it will improve."
Whether or not it actually works as intended, there's no question that there will be a point when the technology becomes seamless, as facial recognition tech at large improves. And while transforming someone into an unwitting piece of public pornography without their consent is disgusting, what if the connection only exists in the privacy of one individual's mind? Will this all seem normal in five years? Or next year?
From: Esquire US.