Joaquin Oliver, son of Manuel and Patricia Oliver, was one of 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by a former student.
The parents of the teenager murdered in the deadliest school shooting in the U.S. were approached by an advertising agency to digitally resurrect their son to produce an election video.
“We said yes,” said Joaquin’s parents.
Joaquin Oliver died at the age of 17, on February 14, 2018. Since then, Manuel and his wife Patricia Oliver have dedicated their lives to the eradication of weapons.
First, they provided the agency with photos of their deceased son. An actor who looked like Joaquin recorded the message. Then, using artificial intelligence (AI), Joaquin’s face was mapped onto the actor’s, like a digital mask.
The video was published earlier this month on www.unfinishedvotes.com and YouTube, where it received about 150,000 views.
However, the video is the target of several criticisms on YouTube, which accuse the family of lack of ethics for using their son to put words in his mouth.
Manuel, Joaquin Oliver’s father, believes that this “is a perfect example of the good side of these technologies”. In a response to Internet users who criticize the family, Manuel considers the way in which American politicians deal with violence in the country to be unethical.
Artificial Intelligence technology also has its downside. There are circulating on the internet, the so-called “deepfakes”, highly realistic videos generated by AI, which became notorious for putting words in the hands of politicians or faces of celebrities in porn videos.
Tim Jones, executive creative director at McCann New York, said he reached out to the Olivers with his “crazy idea”, not knowing how they would react.
Jones is also a father and knows that the ethical and emotional issue in this situation would be “a very fine line”.
According to the parents, the speech was inspired by what Joaquin believed and wrote about. “You can go and check his Twitter,” says Patricia, Joaquin’s mother.
“Joaquin was also my best friend. So when you have a best friend for over 17 years, you know exactly how he thinks, how he reacts to things, ”added Manuel.
With regard to Artificial Intelligence, the obstacle was enormous. Usually, thousands of images are needed to reconstruct a person, but in Joaquin’s case, the material available was not enough. Tim Jones adds that the fact that he is a teenager and his face changes a lot every day also did not help.
Altogether, it took six months for Lightfarm Studios do Brasil to complete the production. It’s not perfect, but it’s “very, very close to Joaquin,” said Manuel. The voice is a slightly altered version of that of the actor, because there were not enough recordings of Joaquin.
This article is available in: Português