Deepfake Strikes Again: Team of MIT Researchers Recreate Nixon Speech about Moon Disaster

What if the Apollo 11 astronauts had been stranded on the Moon? Now you can hear Richard Nixon's 'deepfake' speech on the matter.
Fabienne Lang
Richard Nixon giving his 'deepfake' speechHalsey Burgund/YouTube

Deepfake videos have been hitting the headlines recently, sometimes for some silly fun, and other times to highlight the risks deepfakes can present.

Now, a group of MIT researchers has put their heads together to create a deepfake video of former U.S. President Richard Nixon giving a speech about the Apollo 11 astronauts being stranded on the Moon. This was a speech that Nixon had in fact prepared should the need have arisen at the time.

The goal of the video was to show the power, and sometimes worrying effects, deepfake videos can have. Can they rewrite history?


'In event of Moon disaster'

In July 1969, the world rejoiced as the first man walked on the Moon. Everyone came together to celebrate the "giant leap for mankind" that was the Moon landing by Apollo 11 astronauts. 

However, what if the 1969 Moon landing had not gone to plan, and the astronauts had been trapped on the Moon? This was a possibility that the NASA team prepared for, as well as the American President at the time, Richard Nixon.

Should such a tragedy have arisen, Nixon had prepared a speech in which he would have addressed the world about the terrible happenstance. 

This speech is what a team from MIT's Center for Advanced Virtuality used to create a short deepfake video. The goal of the MIT team is to show how well a deepfake video can be made.

The clip is hauntingly accurate and displays how journalists, trusted individuals, and even world leaders could be morphed into saying things they did not say, and acting in ways they simply wouldn't normally behave in. 

MIT's team created an immersive installation of the video, called In Event of Moon Disaster, to view an alternative version of history, and to pose the question of where technology is leading us. Urging us to consider how technologies can twist and turn reality. 

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Here is a version of the clip, where you can see for yourself how Nixon is perfectly embodied: 

It certainly brings out some contradictory feelings in many people, as can be seen by this Tweet on the subject: 

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