Viral TikTok Leaves Viewers Baffled About Whether ‘AI Man’ Is Real or Not

“Will artificial intelligence replace the role of visual effects artists?” a man asks at the beginning of a video uploaded to TikTok by user Curt Skelton. “It already has,” he says, before morphing into a woman named Zahra, who claims Skelton doesn’t exist, and he was generated using multiple artificial intelligence-powered programs.

Zahra elaborates on “how she did it,” explaining that the process began with the digital image generator DALL-E. “I played around using different prompts until I created the perfect look,” Zahra says, and went as far as to say she was intentional about not wanting him to “look hot,” because she wanted people to “follow him for his jokes.”

@curt.skelton♬ Mr. Roboto – Live – Styx

Once she settled on the ideal image, Zahra says she used a program called Convert Skeleton to create a 3D model based on the pictures — which is where she also claims to have come up with the character’s name. “Honestly, surprised no one caught that,” she adds.

Other programs mentioned in Zahra’s creation were to capture movement and Deepfake Lab to generate facial expressions.

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The video, which has been viewed more than 15 million times, was flooded with commenters either expressing disbelief or confusion. “I don’t know what’s real anymore,” one viewer wrote. Another said, “4 days later and I’m still confused about this collab. Like was it a joke? Or an experiment about what we’d believe? Lol,” to which Skelton responded, “You should watch the video right after this one.”

In the follow-up video, Skelton says “it was a joke that nobody got, which means I’m not as funny as I thought I was.” He adds that although he thought a majority of people would fall for it, he assumed people would go to his page, see his other videos and come to the conclusion that he was a real person, “but not everybody did that, and I don’t understand why,” he says.

Curt Skelton actually is a real person, but the joke that led to widespread polarization in the comment section does say something about the technological advances that seem to have the power to replace the human experience, which Skelton says was the “point” of the video.

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“I asked, ‘Will artificial intelligence replace the role of visual effect artists?’ implying we’d talk about how it’s going to take over their jobs, but then I show how it literally took over a visual effects artist,” Skelton said in his follow-up video. “But a joke that you have to explain isn’t that funny,” he added.

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Madeline Garfinkle