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Facebook gets silly with acquisition of face-swapping selfie app MSQRD

Facebook is acquiring a popular photo app, called MSQRD, that turns your mug into an animated selfie. Facebook is buying the app’s creator, Masquerade Technologies, for an undisclosed sum.

Masquerade’s face-swapping technology let’s you play around with animated filters that go over your face and morph your appearance. When opening the app, the front camera activates immediately and a row of filters appear on the bottom. Similar to Snapchat’s creepy face-swap filter, Masquerade lets users morph into different animals, such as a panda or a tiger, and even famous celebs like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jimmy Kimmel. With the overlay, you can snap a picture or video and share it on social media, as well as through text messaging.

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The app has garnered average ratings of 4.5-5 stars on both the iTunes and Google Play app stores, and with Facebook integration, Masquerade’s popularity could explode even further. According to Tech Insider, Facebook will keep Masquerade as a standalone app.

“Within Facebook, we’re going to be able to reach people at a scale like never before,” Masquerade CEO Eugene Nevgen wrote in a message on the MSQRD website. “For starters, we’ll be able to bring our technology to Facebook’s audience of nearly 1.6 billion people. This is a scale of audience we never imagined was possible.”

Masquerade’s face-swapping tech, which uses face-tracking and 3D effects, coincides with the enormous buzz behind Snapchat’s face-swapping filter, which allows users to swap faces with a person beside them. Facebook’s acquisition suggests this type of photo is a big enough trend for the social network to latch onto (and keep it in competition with Snapchat), but it also expands the fun elements within Facebook. Masquerade’s work could also benefit Facebook’s research in facial recognition and other imaging technologies; it’s reported that Masquerade’s three founders will move into Facebook’s London office.

“Masquerade has built a fantastic app, MSQRD, with world-class imaging technology for video,” a Facebook representative told Tech Insider. “We’re excited to welcome Masquerade to our team and continue enhancing the Facebook video experience.”