Snapchat is testing a new feature that will edit people’s faces into GIFs to create essentially harmless versions of the deepfake videos that have propagated online.
The feature, named Snapchat Cameos, is accessed through the Bitmoji button on the Snapchat keyboard. It allows users to take selfies and then have themselves inserted into a selection of pre-made GIFs. The app will then animate the person’s face, including their mouth movements, into the clip, tweaking the selfie to make various facial reactions to fit the chosen GIF. Users may then send the customized GIF to their friends through the app’s chat component.
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Snapchat confirmed to TechCrunch that the feature was being tested on a limited basis in some international markets, including France. The company did not provide a specific release date for Snapchat Cameos, but said that the global launch is “soon.”
Snapchat Cameos represents a friendly application of deepfake technology, which has drawn criticism for its potential misuse. While some of the best deepfake videos online are funny and entertaining, the technology has the potential to disrupt politics by placing the faces of politicians in fake videos, or to create pornographic material using the faces of unknowing celebrities. Fortunately, it looks like Snapchat’s deepfakes will not be harmful in any way, as users will only be able to add their faces into premade GIFs.
Snapchat Cameos will help the app further differentiate itself from rivals, especially after its Stories feature has been copied by the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Snapchat’s messaging component remains its most popular feature, and Snapchat Cameos will provide users with more reasons to stay within the app. The feature also presents potential earnings opportunities for Snapchat, as branded Cameo clips may be sold to users, similar to sponsored versions of the app’s augmented reality Lens.
Other new features that have recently rolled out for Snapchat include the 3D Paint tool that allows users to create 3D doodles by painting in augmented reality, the Analog lens filter by VSCO that makes images and videos look like old film, and the Time Machine filter that makes a person in a selfie look much younger or older.
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