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Deepfake video app Reface is just getting started on shapeshifting selfie culture

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A bearded Rihanna gyrates and sings about shining bright like a diamond. A female Jack Sparrow looks like she’d be a right laugh over a pint. The cartoon contours of The Incredible Hulk lend envious tint to Donald Trump’s awfully familiar cheek bumps.

Selfie culture has a fancy new digital looking glass: Reface (previously Doublicat) is an app that uses AI-powered deepfake technology to let users try on another face/form for size. Aka “face swap videos”, in its marketing parlance.

Deepfake technology — or synthesized media, to give it its less pejorative label — is just getting into its creative stride, according to Roman Mogylnyi, CEO and co-founder of RefaceAI, which makes the eponymous app whose creepily lifelike output you may have noticed bubbling up in your social streams in recent months.

The startup has Ukrainian founders — as well as Mogylnyi, there’s Oles Petriv, Yaroslav Boiko, Dima Shvets, Denis Dmitrenko, Ivan Altsybieiev and Kyle Sygyda — but the business is incorporated in the US. Doubtless it helps to be nearer to Hollywood studios whose video clips power many of the available face swaps. (Want to see Titanic‘s Rose Hall recast with Trump’s visage staring out of Kate Winslet’s body? No we didn’t either — but once you’ve hit the button it’s horribly hard to unsee… 😷)

TechCrunch noticed a bunch of male friends WhatsApp-group-sharing video clips of themselves as scantily clad female singers and figured the developers must be onto something — a la Face App, or the earlier selfie trend of style transfer (a craze that was sparked by Prisma and cloned mercilessly by tech giants).

Reface’s deepfake effects are powered by a class of machine learning frameworks known as GANs (generative adversarial network) which is how it’s able to get such relatively slick results, per Mogylnyi. In a nutshell it’s generating a new animated face using the twin inputs (the selfie and the target video), rather than trying to mask one on top of the other.

Deepface technology has of course been around for a number of years, at this point, but the Reface team’s focus is on making the tech accessible and easy to use — serving it up as a push-button smartphone app with no need for more powerful hardware and near instant transformation from a single selfie snap. (It says it turns selfies into face vectors representing distinguishing user’s facial features — and pledges that uploaded photos are removed from its Google Cloud platform “within an hour”.)

No need for tech expertise nor lots of effort to achieve a lifelike effect. The inexorable social shares flowing from such a user friendly tech application then work to chalk off product marketing.

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It was a similar story with the AI tech underpinning Prisma — which left that app open to merciless cloning, though it was initially only transforming photos. But Mogylnyi believes the team behind the video face swaps has enough of a head (ha!) start to avoid a similar fate.

He says usage of Reface has been growing “really fast” since it added high res videos this June — having initially launched with only far grainier GIF face swaps on offer.  In terms of metrics the startup us not disclosing active monthly users but says it’s had around 20 million downloads at this point across 100 countries. (On Google Play the app has almost a full five star rating, off of approaching 150k reviews.)

“I understand that an interest from huge companies might come. And it’s obvious. They see that it’s a great thing — personalization is the next trend, and they are all moving in the same direction, with Bitmoji, Memoji, all that stuff — but we see personalized, hyperrealistic face swapping as the next big thing,” Mogylnyi tells TechCrunch.

“Even for [tech giants] it takes time to create such a technology. Even speaking about our team we have a brilliant team, brilliant minds, and it took us a long time to get here. Even if you spawn many teams to work on the same problems surely you will get somewhere… but currently we’re ahead and we’re doing our best to work on new technologies to keep in pace,” he adds.

Reface’s app is certainly having a moment right now, bagging top download slots on the iOS App Store and Google Play in 100 countries — helped, along the way, by its reflective effects catching the eye of the likes of Elon Musk and Britney Spears (who Mogylnyi says have retweeted examples of its content).

But he sees this bump as just the beginning — predicting much bigger things coming down the sythensized pipe as more powerful features are switched on. The influx of bitesized celebrity face swaps signals an incoming era of personalized media, which could have a profoundly transformative effect on culture.

Mogylnyi’s hope is that wide access to synthensized media tools will increase humanity’s empathy and creativity — providing those who engage with the tech limitless chances to (auto)vicariously experience things they maybe otherwise couldn’t ever (or haven’t yet) — and so imagine themselves into new possibilities and lifestyles.

He reckons the tech will also open up opportunities for richly personalized content communities to grow up around stars and influencers — extending how their fans can interact with them.

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“Right now the way influencers exist is only one way; they’re just giving their audience the content. In my understanding in our case we’ll let influencers have the possibility to give their audience access to the content and to feel themselves in it. It’s one of the really cool things we’re working on — so it will be a part of the platform,” he says.

“What’s interesting about new-gen social networks [like TikTok] is that people can both be like consumers and providers at the same time… So in our case people will also be able to be providers and consumers but on the next level because they will have the technology to allow themselves to feel themselves in the content.”

“I used to play basketball in school years but I had an injury and I was dreaming about a pro career but I had to stop playing really hard. I’ll never know how my life would have gone if I was a pro basketball player so I have to be a startup entrepreneur right now instead… So in the case with our platform I actually will have a chance to see how my pro basketball career would look like. Feel myself in the content and life this life,” he adds.

This vision is really the mirror opposite of the concerns that are typically attached to deepfakes, around the risk of people being taken in, tricked, shamed or otherwise manipulated by intentionally false imagery.

So it’s noteworthy that Reface is not letting users loose on their technology in a way that could risk an outpouring of problem content. For example, you can’t yet upload your own video to make into a deepfake — although the ability to do so is coming. For now, you have to pick from a selection of preloaded celebrity clips and GIFs which no one would mistake for the real-deal.

That’s a very deliberate decision, with Mogylnyi emphasizing they want to be responsible in how they bring the tech to market.

User generated video and a lot more — full body swaps are touted, next year — are coming, though. But before they turn on more powerful content generation functionality they’re working on building a counter tech to reliably detect such generated content. Mogylnyi says it will only open up usage once they’re confident of being able to spot their own fakes.

“It will be this autumn, actually,” he says of launching UGC video (plus the deepfake detection capability). “We’ll launch it with our Face Studio… which will be a tool for content creators, for small studios, for small post production studios, maybe some music video makers.”

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“We also have five different technologies in our pipeline which we’ll show in the upcoming half a year,” he adds. “There are also other technologies and features based on current tech [stack] that we’ll be launching… We’ll allow users to swap faces in pictures with the new stack and also a couple of mechanics based on face swapping as well, and also separate technologies as well we’re aiming to put into the app.”

He says higher quality video swapping is another focus, alongside building out more technologies for post production studios. “Face Studio will be like an overall tool for people who want full access to our technologies,” he notes, saying the pro tool will launch later this year.

The Ukrainian team behind the app has been honing their deep tech chops for years — starting working together back in 2011 straight out of university and going on to set up a machine learning dev shop in 2013.

Work with post production studios followed, as they were asked to build face swapping technology to help budget-strapped film production studios do more while having to move their actors move around less.

By 2018, with plenty of expertise under their belt, they saw the potential for making deepface technology more accessible and user friendly — launching the GIF version of the app late last year, and going on to add video this summer when they also rebranded the app to Reface. The rest looks like it could be viral face swapping tech history…

So where does all this digital shapeshifting end up? “In our dreams and in our vision we see the app as a personalization platform where people will be able to live different lives during their one lifetime. So everyone can be anyone,” says Mogylnyi. “What’s the overall problem right now? People are scrolling content, not looking deep into it. And when I see people just using our app they always try to look inside — to look deeply into the picture. And that’s what really inspires us. So we understand that we can take the way people are browsing and the way they are consuming content to the next level.”

TechCrunch

APPS

Best ASO Tips To Boost Your App Search In 2022

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You need your application to be really effective in the overpopulated application market. Then, at that point, you will have to drive downloads to endure. So when it’s all said and done, you must account for yourself. Get your application the consideration it merits.

The uplifting news, however, is that customers love to download applications – last year, we downloaded in excess of 200 billion applications around the world, and that figure is set to increment to 258 billion every year by 2022 as cell phone reception increments.

Assuming you need to be seen and have your application downloaded by however many clients as could reasonably be expected, then, at that point, you should begin by taking a gander at the application store.

Underneath, we’ve assembled probably the best application store improvement methods to assist you with creating more downloads in 2021 and then some…

Start with Your Application Name 

The odds are you as of now have an extraordinary name for your application, yet an appropriately advanced application is about significantly more than marking.

Assuming you need to amplify transparency and guarantee you’re showing up when clients look for applications like yours, you ought to remember the primary keywords for your application name or title, comparable to how you’d make a title label while improving a site page.

You could begin with your application name so it tends to be plainly recognized, thus it appears on the home screen of gadgets.

Then, at that point, you can add a scramble or vertical bar prior to adding a few pertinent watchwords to your speciality, or even put your application name in quotes as we did with FORE Business Golf Networking.

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Urge Users to Leave Reviews 

You could ask for reviews by clients through the means of your site, or through an in-application notice toward the finish of their meeting, yet make sure to restrict the number of pop-ups you execute with the goal that you don’t disturb or disappoint your clients, as this could urge them to erase your application.

We’d support all application engineers and entrepreneurs to react to criticism on their applications, as this can further develop client relations and resolve issues in an open arena.

Zero in on Your Application Depiction 

Your application depiction is your principle assemblage of text your landing page content, in a manner of speaking. Utilize a site like KeywordTool.io to discover information on your picked catchphrases to expand your openness. As portrayals are shortened, ensure you remember the main data for the initial three lines of your depiction, and afterwards add things like social confirmation, emoticon, and suggestions to take action to build commitment and downloads.

Incorporate Appealings Screen Captures 

Pictures and recordings won’t help your application rank, yet they will expand changes and assist clients with working out whether it’s an application they truly need.

There’s a little guide in empowering clients toward downloading your application if in any case, they’re not going to interface with it, or download and leave a negative survey when they understand it wasn’t what was promoted.

Assuming you need to ‘tart up’ your item page, then, at that point, you can add marking and extra text and data and designs to your recordings and screen capture, yet they ought not to diminish your item.

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Pay for App Store or Play Store 

As we have SEO and pay-per-click, you need to work one next to the other (one is a gradual methodology with long haul benefits – the other is a speedy success yet requires an endless spending plan), application store promotions can be utilized to get the message out with regards to your new programming and assist you with positioning at the highest point of query items pages – in front of your opposition and enormous names in the application world.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to focus on the right crowd and art an advertisement that will assist you with changing over and that since you’re paying for situations, that doesn’t mean clients will download or cooperate with your application.

Wrapping Up!

You can employ a group of  App  Store Optimization Services suppliers to benefit a scope of application store improvement administrations, including watchword advancement, resource enhancement, and restriction to guarantee your application is seen by individuals that matter.

We have long periods of involvement in creating and showcasing applications and have assisted different customers with expanding their downloads by infiltrating rewarding and regularly undiscovered business sectors.

Author:
Prachi Gupta likes to write information about Digital Marketing Trends that can help audience to grow their business.

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WhatsApp will finally let users encrypt their chat backups in the cloud

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WhatsApp said on Friday it will give its two billion users the option to encrypt their chat backups to the cloud, taking a significant step to put a lid on one of the tricky ways private communication between individuals on the app can be compromised.

The Facebook-owned service has end-to-end encrypted chats between users for more than a decade. But users have had no option but to store their chat backup to their cloud — iCloud on iPhones and Google Drive on Android — in an unencrypted format.

Tapping these unencrypted WhatsApp chat backups on Google and Apple servers is one of the widely known ways law enforcement agencies across the globe have for years been able to access WhatsApp chats of suspect individuals.

Now WhatsApp says it is patching this weak link in the system.

“WhatsApp is the first global messaging service at this scale to offer end-to-end encrypted messaging and backups, and getting there was a really hard technical challenge that required an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage across operating systems,” said Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in a post announcing the new feature.

Store your own encryption keys

The company said it has devised a system to enable WhatsApp users on Android and iOS to lock their chat backups with encryption keys. WhatsApp says it will offer users two ways to encrypt their cloud backups, and the feature is optional.

In the “coming weeks,” users on WhatsApp will see an option to generate a 64-digit encryption key to lock their chat backups in the cloud. Users can store the encryption key offline or in a password manager of their choice, or they can create a password that backs up their encryption key in a cloud-based “backup key vault” that WhatsApp has developed. The cloud-stored encryption key can’t be used without the user’s password, which isn’t known by WhatsApp.

Image Credits: WhatsApp/supplied

“We know that some will prefer the 64-digit encryption key whereas others want something they can easily remember, so we will be including both options. Once a user sets their backup password, it is not known to us. They can reset it on their original device if they forget it,” WhatsApp said.

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“For the 64-digit key, we will notify users multiple times when they sign up for end-to-end encrypted backups that if they lose their 64-digit key, we will not be able to restore their backup and that they should write it down. Before the setup is complete, we’ll ask users to affirm that they’ve saved their password or 64-digit encryption key.”

A WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch that once an encrypted backup is created, previous copies of the backup will be deleted. “This will happen automatically and there is no action that a user will need to take,” the spokesperson added.

Potential regulatory pushback?

The move to introduce this added layer of privacy is significant and one that could have far-reaching implications.

End-to-end encryption remains a thorny topic of discussion as governments continue to lobby for backdoors. Apple was reportedly pressured to not add encryption to iCloud Backups after the FBI complained, and while Google has offered users the ability to encrypt their data stored in Google Drive, the company allegedly didn’t tell governments before it rolled out the feature.

When asked by TechCrunch whether WhatsApp, or its parent firm Facebook, had consulted with government bodies — or if it had received their support — during the development process of this feature, the company declined to discuss any such conversations.

“People’s messages are deeply personal and as we live more of our lives online, we believe companies should enhance the security they provide their users. By releasing this feature, we are providing our users with the option to add this additional layer of security for their backups if they’d like to, and we’re excited to give our users a meaningful advancement in the safety of their personal messages,” the company told TechCrunch.

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WhatsApp also confirmed that it will be rolling out this optional feature in every market where its app is operational. It’s not uncommon for companies to withhold privacy features for legal and regulatory reasons. Apple’s upcoming encrypted browsing feature, for instance, won’t be made available to users in certain authoritarian regimes, such as China, Belarus, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.

At any rate, Friday’s announcement comes days after ProPublica reported that private end-to-end encrypted conversations between two users can be read by human contractors when messages are reported by users.

“Making backups fully encrypted is really hard and it’s particularly hard to make it reliable and simple enough for people to use. No other messaging service at this scale has done this and provided this level of security for people’s messages,” Uzma Barlaskar, product lead for privacy at WhatsApp, told TechCrunch.

“We’ve been working on this problem for many years, and to build this, we had to develop an entirely new framework for key storage and cloud storage that can be used across the world’s largest operating systems and that took time.”

TechCrunch

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Dispo launches a test to gauge user interest in selling their photos as NFTs

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Dispo, the photo-sharing app that emulates disposable cameras, started rolling out a test yesterday that will record user interest in selling photos as NFTs. Some users will now see a sell button on their photos, and when they tap it, they can sign up to be notified when the ability to sell Dispo photos launches.

CEO and co-founder Daniel Liss told TechCrunch that Dispo is still deciding how it will incorporate NFT sales into the app, which is why the platform is piloting a test with its users. Dispo doesn’t know yet what blockchain it would use, if it would partner with an NFT marketplace or what cut of sales Dispo would take.

“I think it’s safe to say from the test that there will be an experience native to the Dispo app,” Liss said. “There are a number of ways it could look — there could be a native experience within Dispo that then connects through an API to another platform, and in turn, they’re our partner, but to the community, it would look native to the Dispo app.”

Image Credits: Dispo

This marks a new direction for the social media app, which seeks to redefine the photo-sharing experience by only letting users see the photos they took at 9 AM the next morning. From Dispo’s perspective, this gimmick helps users share more authentically, since you take one photo and then you’re done — the app isn’t conducive to taking dozens of selfies and posting the “best” image of yourself. But though it only launched in December 2019, Dispo has already faced both buzzy hype and devastating controversy.

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Until about a year ago, the app was called David’s Disposables, named after co-founder and YouTuber David Dobrik. The app was downloaded over a million times in the first week after its release and hit No. 1 on the App Store charts. In March 2021, the app dropped its waitlist and relaunched with social network features, but just weeks later, Insider reported sexual assault allegations against a member of Vlog Squad, Dobrik’s YouTube prank ensemble. In response, Spark Capital severed ties with the company, leading to Dobrik’s departure. Other investors like Seven Seven Six and Unshackled Ventures, which contributed to the company’s $20 million Series A round, announced that they would donate any profits from their investments in Dispo to organizations working with survivors of sexual assault.

Liss told TechCrunch in June, when the company confirmed its Series A, that Dobrik’s role with the company was as a marketing partner — Liss has been CEO since the beginning. In light of the controversy, Liss said the app focused on improving the product itself and took a step back from promotion.

According to data from the app analytics firm SensorTower, Dispo has reached an estimated 4.7 million global installs to date since launch. Though the app saw the most downloads in January 2020, when it was installed over 1 million times, the app’s next best month came in March 2021, when it removed its waitlist — that month, about 616,000 people downloaded Dispo. Between March and the end of August, the app was downloaded around 1.4 million times, which is up 118% year over year compared to the same time frame in 2020 — but it should be expected that this year’s numbers would be higher, since last year, the app’s membership was exclusive.

Image Credits: Dispo

Now, with the announcement that Dispo is pursuing NFTs, Liss hopes that his company won’t just change how people post photos, but what the relationship will be between platforms and the content that users create.

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“Why NFTs? The most powerful memories of our lives have value. And they have economic value, because we created them, and the past of social media fails to recognize that,” Liss told TechCrunch. “As a result, the only way that a creator with a big following is compensated is by selling directly to a brand, as opposed to profiting from the content itself.”

Adding NFT sales to the app offers Dispo a way to profit from a cut of user sales, but it stands to question how adding NFT sales could impact the community-focused feel of Dispo.

“I think there is tremendous curiosity and interest,” Liss said. “But these problems and questions are why we need more data.”

TechCrunch

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