Virtual facelifts and AI-generated makeup. When will the absurdity end?

The Rundown: 

Algorithms are being applied to video chat applications across the board, making the virtual facelift a standard in all video calls. This marks the beginning of a booming video alteration economy. By 2024, video chat applications will offer a variety of AI-generated makeup, virtual facelifts, facial reconstruction, and other digital appearance altering tools.

Video chatting is a pillar of communication these days. In WhatsApp alone, users made over 340 million minutes of video calls per day. This doesn’t take into account the dozens of other video chat apps like FaceTime, Google Duo, or Facebook Messenger.

And even if you’re not making video calls for pleasure, there’s a great chance you’re using Google Hangouts, Skype, or Zoom to hold virtual meetings at work.

With all these video chats taking place, the opportunity to improve the experience is paramount to beating out the competition.

Apple’s Animoji and Snapchat filters show us that there’s a way to spice up video conversations. I can hop in FaceTime, have a conversation with Ryan as a unicorn. If Ryan wants to be a lizard, that’s his prerogative.

In a way, video chat alterations are becoming an entire economy. It’s only natural that we’re going to continue making our appearances unnatural, very much in the same way that our digital photographs have lost their ties to actual reality. Honestly, is there a single photograph on Facebook, Instagram, or the entire Internet that hasn’t been hit with a touchup tool like Photoshop or the filters in every camera app?

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Virtual Facelift

For years, I’ve been using Zoom to hold digital meetings with clients and coworkers. Only just the other day did I come across a very intriguing option in their menu called “Touch Up My Appearance”.

With the click of a button, Zoom covers up blemishes and baggy eyes, smooths wrinkles, and makes my skin glow. It’s a virtual facelift compliments of Zoom. In just a couple of years, the virtual facelift will come baked into every video chatting platform, whether you realize it or not.

If it’s any indication of this wave, it’s happening to the iPhone XS in a scenario people are calling BeautyGate. Essentially, the camera in the XS has a few algorithms that automatically touch up people’s appearances to remove blemishes, shadows, and smooth the skin’s appearance with selfies. Some people love the way they look in these pictures, while others think it appears unrealistic.

Nonetheless, the virtual facelift is just the start of this wild economy. What comes after the virtual facelift?

AI-generated Makeup

A year ago, Sephora showed us the first version of AI-generated makeup. They were a little ahead of their time with their Virtual Artist app. Users can virtually apply different shades of lipstick and other makeup to their digital image. It’s a way of trying on makeup without going into the store.

What’s AI-generated about that experience?

Well, the logical next step is to apply the technology to video chat applications. If Zoom can touch up my appearance real-time, then what’s stopping them from applying lipstick to my lips in real-time?

Pretty soon, users will be able to open the Sephora profile builder, choose their lip color, cheek contour, eyeshadow, etc… and apply it to their digital image. When they open FaceTime, their virtual makeup choices will be overlayed on the video. This is what one of my female coworkers had to say about this idea.

It’s odd that I can do all my work from home. What’s even odder is that I do my makeup and get dressed up to not leave the house for work, just because I have a few virtual meetings every day on Google Hangouts. If Google Hangouts offered virtual makeup, then I’d just use them to apply my makeup. It would save me hours every week.

All it takes is for Kylie Jenner or Rihanna to hop on this wave and it’ll become wildly popular. This is how beauty products companies will “future-proof” their companies and solidify their places in digital economies.
Honestly, this won’t be just a women thing, either.

Digital Beautification for Men

Similarly, men will be able to erase the wrinkles and blemishes, but also choose the way they appear on a deeper level.

Different jawlines come across differently on a subliminal level – some appear strong while others more vulnerable. Depending on what the situation calls for, men will be able to touch up their appearances to appear a certain way in the eyes of the person they’re chatting with. It’ll be subtle shading and contour techniques that accomplish this.

Naturally, there’s already an app called Manly that adds six-pack abs and beards to photos. Of course, these will soon be features of the real-time video appearance alterations as well.

The facial recognition and facial mapping technology already exist to make these real-time video alterations a feature of every video chat application.

This makes me question: what will the App Store for FaceTime appearances look like?

By 2024, video chat applications will offer a variety of AI-generated makeup, virtual facelifts, facial reconstruction, and other digital appearance altering tools.

This will be a popular way for people to control the appearance they present through video chat applications. We’re going to see an entire economic boom around real-time video alterations. Look at all the hoopla that FakeApp is causing with fake video creations.

Pretty or Pretty Ugly

The one thing that must remain a part of this technology is the user choice. If the technology is applied to our faces in video applications whether we choose or not, there are going to be some major issues.

As I mentioned before, we’re already seeing this algorithmic overlay with the BeautyGate iPhone camera issue. This is a problem because there is no universal idea of beauty. What one person sees as pretty, to another person is pretty ugly. This is why there must remain an element of user customization.

Nonetheless, we’re about to enter a really odd time.

We are going to become so accustomed to AI generated “makeup”, “smart” email responses, and software-defined personalities that within five years, being “authentic” will be seen as a highly valued job skill or a circus oddity.

Chris Dancy

Soon, it’ll be natural for our digital appearances to be unnatural. I’m not particularly thrilled for the psychological effects this is going to bring to society.

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