In the animation classic Sleeping Beauty, lovely Princess Aurora sings Once Upon a Dream in a forest while a hovering owl accents her dancing with flowing scarlet and a friendly bluebird flutters round her head. A dreamily dynamic scene where everything appears perfect for one magical moment.
Now there’s an app for that.
The new AI-powered Animate feature on Meitu’s signature selfie app brings still pictures to life with floral auras, resplendent butterflies, flowing hair, petal bursts, flame nebulas, fireworks and more.
Chinese selfie app maker Meitu released the Animate feature last month and it’s since become a massive hit across Asia, particularly in India, Thailand, Indonesia, and Nepal. The app’s daily active users in India jumped 435 percent since June and it ranked first on the Android image processing app list in Thailand.
Meitu Imaging & Vision Lab (MTlab) researchers developed the Animate feature using instance segmentation and inpainting technologies.
Portrait and instance segmentation allow the app to deal with multiple subjects or messy backgrounds and segment the people in an image. The algorithm ensures the results remain robust and that outcomes match image scenarios. The inpainting technology then generates a new background consistent with the quality of the original uploaded image. With just a click, users can choose from multiple magical dynamic background effects and add other touches such as glimmering hair highlights. At this point the app requires an Internet connection.
Head of Meitu Apps Jianyi Chen says “Today’s users are always seeking new ways to retouch their photos, but are typically limited to basic filters and editing options… We have created a feature that offers a broad range of opportunities for users to explore their creativity by turning their static photos into dynamic flowing worlds.”
Meitu’s Animate is just the latest in a series of innovative AI-powered selfie transforming apps. One that’s been in the news lately is FaceApp, which can make users appear older or younger in photos. The results are so realistic that FaceApp drew criticism for a terms of service agreement that grants the app’s developers perpetual rights to the generated pics out of fears these visions of our future selves could be misused. On July 17, US senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called on the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate security and privacy concerns related to the Russian app.
Another recent selfie editing favourite is AI Portraits, developed by researchers at the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. The project can transform selfies into classical portraits in the styles of artists such as Rembrandt, Titian, or Vincent van Gogh. The AI portraits algorithm was trained on 45,000 classical paintings. Unfortunately, the project website is now down “due to the overwhelming popularity of the site.”
AI image processing techniques have enabled us to inhabit dynamic fantasy environments, revisit historic atmospheres and even peek into our own futures. Whether this is just a bit of innocent fun or AI is enabling a selfie-obsessed society is a matter for discussion. One thing is for sure: we love reimagining ourselves, and AI is unparalleled at doing that.
Journalist: Fangyu Cai | Editor: Michael Sarazen