Facebook’s new AI text tool is incredible (and slightly creepy)

We’ve seen all sorts of impressive (read: terrifying) deepfakes over the last few months, mostly involving actors’ heads being replaced through the power of AI. But this latest piece of AI involves something else entirely: typography. 

Facebook’s new TextStyleBrush tool is an AI research project that can copy the style of text in a photo, based on just a single word. It means everything from handwriting to unusual fonts can be recreated with eerily impressive accuracy. (Check out our best free fonts if you’re looking for typographical inspiration.) 

Unlike most AI systems, Facebook says TextStyleBrush is the first self-supervised AI model that can replace “text in images of both handwriting and scenes using a single example word”.  

Facebook TextStyleBrush

Some of Facebook’s example converted text (Image credit: Facebook)

At first glance, the tech looks very impressive. In the examples above, not only does the tool accurately mimic the typography of the original text, but it also appears to place it seamlessly in situ on the original background. One of the most obvious potential benefits is the ability to translate text in real time, without compromising the original look. 

Facebook TextStyleBrush

The tool could be used for live translation (Image credit: Facebook)

But like all deepfakes, it’s also a little creepy. We’ve already heard that our favourite films might one day feature retroactively inserted ads, and we can see this exact tech being used to alter the text on, say, billboards. That, and the fact that this is Facebook we’re talking about, makes it a little uncomfortable.

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