Being dragged into interminable pointless meetings which seem to drag on forever is one of the hazards of modern office life, but somehow it’s worse when working from the comfort of your own home over Zoom.
The temptation to check in on WhatsApp or see how your fantasy football team are getting on is enormous, but the tell-tale webcam will always give you away. Just think back to those group calls — you can always tell who’s actually paying attention and who’s (poorly) faking it.
But now it could be a bit harder to tell if you have PC gamers for colleagues. Nvidia, the hardware maker behind the GeForce graphics cards aimed at PC gamers and creators, has updated its Broadcast software to let users deepfake their eyes on the webcam at all times.
Nvidia Broadcast plugs into both video conferencing (eg Skype and Zoom) and streaming (eg Discord and Twitch) software to provide AI enhancements, like custom backgrounds, noise reduction, and movement tracking to webcams.
Only available to those with Nvidia RTX GPUs, the latest addition is the ability to fake attention. When the ‘eye contact’ filter is enabled, your pupils will be redrawn to be fixed on the camera at all times.
Perhaps aware that this could be used deceptively, Nvidia pitches it more at content creators “seeking to record themselves while reading their notes or a script” rather than people aiming to fake enthusiasm for a 4.45pm catch-up call, but the results are ultimately the same.
As the video below demonstrates, the software will not only copy your natural eye colour, but introduce blinks to make the deception more convincing.
Neatly, should the filter stop working — if you look too far away, say — Nvidia has included a disconnection system. This gently transitions away from the artificial eyes and back to your real ones, saving your colleagues the jarring experience of seeing your pupils snap across the screen, and wondering if they should dial 111 on your behalf.
Nvidia isn’t the only company experimenting with this. In 2019, Apple added “Attention Correction” to iOS 13, which mimics eye contact in the company’s own FaceTime software. Microsoft, meanwhile, signalled a plan to do similar with Windows 11 apps back in April.
There are non-underhand reasons to try to adjust a user’s eyes in film, of course. Video calls have never felt hugely personal because the webcam has to be away from the screen, meaning people are never seeing each other eye to eye — and eye contact is associated with trust, perceived intelligence, and human bonding more generally.
In other words, nudging your eyeballs down a bit to maintain eye contact could take away some of the impersonal feel of video calls - even if someone maintaining eye contact for the duration of an hour-long video call can be a touch unnerving in its own right.
But it’s interesting to speculate where deep-faking video calls could go next. Camera apps have been putting smiles on faces for years — is it really impossible to believe that a company could develop an overlay to help you feign interest in what the other person is saying in the same way?
It’s up to consumers to decide when these features cross the line between handy and creepy — if that point hasn’t already been reached.