One of the most popular uses of artificial intelligence is in altering pictures of people to create fun effects and reimagine reality. Think Snapchat filters that let you see what you’d look like with a beard.
An app called Reface that’s been around since 2020 allows users to do something similar, swapping faces in videos with their own so that one could, for instance, see what they’d look like as a character in a popular movie.
We’ve seen this type of technology before. Early this year, genealogy service MyHeritage tried to drum up interest by offering to animate old photos of users’ family members.
The technology takes advantage of a form of artificial intelligence called generative adversarial networks, or GAN for short. Basically, two separate algorithms are pitted against each other: One tries to mimic natural facial expressions accurately, while the other tries to call it out as a fake. The end result is supposed to be more realistic looking results.
But Reface’s results clearly aren’t perfect. When we made Elon Musk sing to “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?),” you could see his mouth movements didn’t totally line up with the lyrics.
In other videos we made, lip-syncing is good but the neck area is a bit disconnected from the body, like each is moving independently. That’s probably because Reface isolates the motion and still layers for fast processing. The body is a complex series of muscles and AI still struggles to get mimic it properly.
Still, the end result is a fun novelty. It could be a nice way to wish a friend a happy birthday or cheer them up with a cute video. Just don’t think too much about the more fraught uses of such technology, such as impersonating people.
Reface says it doesn’t store any facial data that you provide. It’s available on both Android and iOS.