Caitlin, I see a lot of weird portraits of friends popping up on my social media. What’s going on?
OKAY. So there’s this app called Lensa, which was launched as a photo editing app in 2018, by Prisma Labs.
But he only recently went viral for his new Generated by AI “magical avatars” function. Users, provided they upload 10-20 selfies, can pay a small fee to receive digital portraits of themselves transformed into a range of goofy styles from “anime” to “fairy princess”.
It’s one of those trends that has skyrocketed in popularity very quickly – it’s now the most downloaded photo and video app on the iOS store.
Sending pictures of yourself to the ether to get more pictures of you seems a little weird to me, but I’m over 30. Why did it take off?
People love to hop on a trend, and a bunch of celebrities and social media users were quick to swoop in to share their creations online.
In addition, the various tools used by the application are designed to “perfect… facial imperfections” and make “selfies more beautiful”, such as in retouching and correcting your face so that you look more traditionally appealing.
Then there’s the novelty of computer-generated imagery that makes you look like a “kawaii” star or a David Bowie-esque space figure.
Well, that all sounds like harmless fun! Is… is it harmless fun?
Like all good things in life, maybe not.
Oh oh. Tell me more.
Prisma Labs has already got in trouble for accidentally generating cartoonishly sexualized and nude images – including those of children – despite a “no nudes” and “adults only” policy.
Prisma Lab CEO and co-founder Andrey Usoltsev told TechCrunch that this behavior only occurs if the AI is intentionally provoked to create this type of content — which is a violation of the terms against its use.
“If an individual is determined to engage in harmful behavior, any tool could become a weapon,” he said.
Other users of non-English backgrounds have also alleged that Lensa bleached their skin and anglicized their features, a common complaint of image-editing software on platforms like TikTok.
Usoltsev told TechCrunch that the technology doesn’t consciously apply “representation biases.”
“The unfiltered artificial data obtained online introduced the pattern into the existing biases of humanity,” he said. “Creators recognize the possibility of societal bias. U.S. too.”
Then there are the artistic concerns…
Right. Artistic concerns seem much more benign?
Well, maybe. As often comes up in debates about artificial intelligence, artists have expressed concerns about the application and integration of AI image generators, which cut their cheese by turning creativity into a process generated by technology.
Not to mention, the Magic Avatar tool costs a minimum of $6 or an annual subscription of $53.99 to power it…your own photos…of yourself.
So what actually happens to the photos you provide to this app?
Yes, people have expressed concern about this, with some suggesting that you are only paying to train facial recognition intelligence and giving up your own private data.
In a statement, Prisma Labs said users’ images were exploited “solely for the purpose of creating their own avatars.”
“In very simple terms, there is no[t] a “one-size-fits-all collective neural network” trained to replicate any face, based on aggregate learning. »
But any app that collects data can scrape other information from your phone, and it’s unclear whether other personal content such as location could be shared – even unintentionally – without a full audit.
OK, so knowing all that, surely people won’t use it?
Well actually, curiosity and my inner Narcissus took hold and I submitted a bunch of my own photos this morning. It was weird as hell. It was nothing like me, even though I imagined myself to be if I was disguised as a fantasy cartoon character. But I had to know.
Please share the weirdest image offline and I’ll see if we can make it your official image signing picture! But really, what a disturbing state of affairs! Fortunately, we have the wholesome goodness of the World Cup completely intact to take my mind off things. Oh, wait…
Sorry, nothing is sacred.