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Metaphysic, the company behind the Tom Cruise deepfakes, has raised $7.5 million.

The London-based company develops artificial intelligence for hyperreal virtual experiences in the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and Ready Player One.

The company raised the money from Section 32, 8VC, TO Ventures, Winklevoss Capital and Logan Paul.

The funding will help expand Metaphysic’s work on synthetic content creation tools for emergent metaverse worlds that are being built by Facebook and other networks.

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In addition to developing technology to scale hyperreal experiences in the metaverse, Metaphysic is aiming its synthetic media to connect influencers and their audiences in novel ways — including via deepfake videos — that are hyperrealistic, ethically created and uniquely compelling.

In a statement, Metaphysic CEO Thomas Graham said the funding is a critical step in the company’s mission to build core infrastructure for the metaverse and, in turn, help anyone create hyperreal virtual experiences and other content that is limited only by the imagination.

“We’re thrilled to have the support of amazing investors who have deep experience scaling novel technologies and creating cutting-edge, viral content. Together, we will build artificial intelligence and data management tools that let creators import their perception of reality into virtual worlds,” said Graham. “Forward-thinking investors and content creators understand that the future of the human experience is heading into the digital realm and, in turn, are excited by Metaphysic’s groundbreaking technology that elevates the quality of digital experiences to such a high extent that there is a seamless transition between the metaverse and real-life itself.”

Hyperreal synthetic media is already being used in a number of ways, sharpening viewers’ ability to suspend disbelief and become more deeply immersed in imaginary worlds. Studios can create hyper-real content without shooting in person, or reconstruct old, low-resolution footage to update fan favorites. Last spring, Metaphysic made a splash with deepfakes of Tom Cruise pulling off, among other amusing things, playing Dave Matthews Band’s hit song Crash.

This turned heads globally because of the technology’s realistic rendering of one of the world’s most widely known actors that, in turn, had other celebrities such as Justin Bieber thinking it was real.

“Metaphysic’s work goes beyond entertainment and content — it is about building connections among people, and creating a more seamless interface between reality and the time we spend online,” said Bill Maris, founder of Section 32, a venture capital fund focusing on frontier technologies, in a statement. “The team’s commitment to ethical and out-of-the-box applications of this fast-developing technology is important as we gravitate to all-digital platforms that some refer to as the metaverse. I look forward to continuing to work with this great team.”

Founded by the creators of @DeepTomCruise, Metaphysic has worked with such brands as South Park, Gillette, and The Belgian Football Association.

Metaphysic has a team of 15 to 20 people, and it is hiring. I asked what kind of ethical guidelines it is standing by. Graham said in an email, “The ethical production of hyperreal synthetic media and the responsible development of technologies that enable its creation are critical to the DNA of Metaphysic. Informed consent of the person whose synthetic likeness is being created, appropriate labelling of manipulated media, raising public awareness, and responsible distribution of technologies that create hyperreal synthetic media are all key guidelines that inform how we think about building products and content.”

Asked about the inspiration for the company, Graham said for a long time the founding team has been focussed on the creative possibilities that flow from fully synthetic and automated content creation.

“We are proud participants in the creative VFX / generative AI-content communities, so making amazing and joyful content – along with raising public awareness – is close to our hearts,” Graham said. “Another inspiration is to help design a future for the metaverse where users own their own synthetic likenesses and the deeply personal biometric data powers them – with the help of AI models. We hope this will lead to more inclusive economies built around web3 and the user data that powers our personalised hyperreal metaverse experience.”

I asked whether the tech could still be used in unethical ways and how it could stop that.

“At Metaphysic, we believe that there is an urgent need for constructive dialogue between technologists, politicians, industry leaders and rights activists to advance our shared vision for the tremendous impact the metaverse will have on society and our daily lives,” Graham said.

He said there are millions of ways that synthetic media can enrich creative potential and lead to a better online experience for everyone, and there is also a lot of hard work and collaboration required to reduce the potential harm from nefarious and unethical uses of manipulated media.

“We all need to contribute to helping the public better understand the potentially harmful uses of synthetic media and reduce its virality,” Graham said. “We also need to work with policymakers to recognise a range of new offenses, including those related to online bullying and digital sexual violence, involving synthetic media and deepfakes.”

So far the industry has been diligent in not making hyperreal synthetic media creation technologies easily accessible and open to abuse, he said.

“Ultimately, the full potential and creative joy that is unlocked by AI-assisted content will be realized when industry, creators and consumers take responsibility for their content they make, distribute and consume,” Graham said.

There are a number of great startups working on all types of synthetic media at the moment. There are also major tech, gaming and entertainment companies working on content creation platforms to bring users into the metaverse. The real competition is between open and closed systems — between the winners of Web2 and more decentralised organisations, Graham said.

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