The documentary 'In Event of Moon Disaster' uses AI to reimagine a scenario where Neil Armstrong and Edwin Buzz Aldrin die while on their mission to the Moon.
The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) has announced the nominations for the 42nd Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards.
Award-winning Egyptian journalist Pakinam Amer, a senior writer on the project and a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Center for Advanced Virtuality, along with a large group of co-workers, has been nominated for her work on the documentary film titled In Event of Moon Disaster, in the Outstanding Interactive Media: Documentary category.
The documentary, directed by Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund and produced by the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality with a team of researchers and journalists, explores the ramification of emerging media technology.
The film is a deepfake that reimagines the fate of the 1969 moon landing by resurrecting a contingency speech that was written for Nixon at the time but was never actually given. Using archival footage from NASA, the seven-minute short takes viewers on a journey aboard Apollo 11.
The contingency speech was prepared for President Richard Nixon in case the Apollo 11 mission failed, leaving its astronauts stranded on the moon to die a slow death. There was no hope for an escape a la Matt Damon in ‘The Martian’ – NASA and the United States had to prepare for everything, even the unthinkable. And so, the In Event of Moon Disaster created an advanced deepfake of Nixon delivering that same, morbid speech.
To do this, the MIT team, led by its director D. Fox Harrell, a professor of digital media and artificial intelligence at the academic institution- used machine learning technology to bring Nixon’s contingency speech to life, with Nixon’s voice produced by a company called Respeecher. Another company, Canny AI, was brought to recreate Nixon’s facial movements, allowing the mouth and lips to sync up with the synthetic dialogue in a way that was true to life.
The project was first launched as an art installation in Amsterdam in 2019 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.
The 42nd News and Documentary Emmys is set to take place online on September 29.