Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

AI can tell when actors are kissing—and maybe when you are, too

June 14, 2019
An image of people stealing a kiss in a crowd.
An image of people stealing a kiss in a crowd.PeopleImages/Getty

While object recognition in video has rapidly advanced, scene detection, or knowing what’s actually happening on screen, has lagged behind. But being able to analyze and recognize actions in footage could prove useful for applications like video editing. So Amir Ziai, a Stanford student at the time of research and now a senior data scientist at Netflix, took it upon himself to advance the state of the art, specifically in detecting Hollywood kissing scenes. The study may seem rather light-hearted or silly, but it has important implications.

Ziai selected a subset of 100 movies and labeled their various non-kissing and kissing scenes between 10 and 20 seconds in length. He then extracted image and audio stills for every second of each scene, and used them to train a machine-learning algorithm. The resulting model was able to identify which seconds depicted kissing and group them into scenes, achieving a high level of accuracy.

The study shows how quickly the means of analyzing footage for specific, even intimate, actions have advanced. Couple that with surveillance footage, and the implications quickly turn Orwellian. In fact, in a new report, the ACLU sounded the alarm on a future in which camera owners would be able to rapidly identify unusual behavior or seek out embarrassing moments. Like deepfakes, it’s yet another example of a situation where technologists should think about the consequences of their work.

To have more stories like this delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for our Webby-nominated AI newsletter The Algorithm. It's free.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

What does GPT-3 “know” about me? 

Large language models are trained on troves of personal data hoovered from the internet. So I wanted to know: What does it have on me?

An AI that can design new proteins could help unlock new cures and materials 

The machine-learning tool could help researchers discover entirely new proteins not yet known to science.

DeepMind’s new chatbot uses Google searches plus humans to give better answers

The lab trained a chatbot to learn from human feedback and search the internet for information to support its claims.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.