Could super-realistic avatars of dead presidents influence election results?

A new technology called cognitive video regeneration has seemingly brought Ronald Reagan back from the dead — a potential glimpse into how politics might be played in the future — if not the present. The technology was developed by a company called Seyyer, who has created the Reagan "Live From the Other Side" series of videos in which the late president can be seen and heard talking about such things as the recent crisis in Egypt, the 11th anniversary of 9/11, and even the current election.

But while fascinating and even a little bit macabre, could technologies like this actually impact on public opinion?

To create the realistic effect, Seyer integrated several different technologies, including human gesture-recognition and personalized-speech modeling. The AI video personalization platform works by analyzing a database of pre-existing facial expressions and spoken words, learns from them, and applies it to express entirely new user-driven phrases and expressions.


While not perfect, the end-result is a fairly accurate video interpretation of the real thing. And in fact, some might argue that it's a little too accurate.

While Seyyer is using the "Live From the Other Side" series to showcase its technology, it's also promoting a decidedly pro-Republican stance.

In one of the videos, the virtual Reagan can be heard saying, "Protesters are responding to an anti-Islam movie produced here in America. Mitt Romney seems ready to fight and believes President Obama's measured approach weakens America's position in the international community."

In conjunction with this, Seyyer is encouraging commenters to ask the virtual Reagan questions and to offer their insights, while also providing a "live" Twitter account.


The company claims that the videos are intended for parody and social commentary, and that it is not making any kind of endorsement or approval.

At any rate, the videos do show the potential for these these technologies to influence public opinion. Reagan is a perfect example, a former president who still carries a lot of clout in certain jurisdictions. The 'nostalgia factor' is certainly one that many politicians will want to further exploit.


But as Dominic Basulto points out, it's also a technology that could be used in other ways. "The possibilities are endless — including the possibility that political opponents could counter-program a Ronald Reagan to start spouting the latest liberal orthodoxy," he writes.

Looking to the future, these technologies can only get better and more realistic. And who knows? Perhaps during the 2016 election we'll see Clint Eastwood actually talking to a hologram of the next Democratic presidential candidate instead of an empty chair.


H/t to Big Think.

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Max Headroom 2012!