Global Selfie Culture Reimagined – Meet RefaceAI Co-Founder at IT Arena

September 8, 2020

Recently, Ukrainian app Reface (previously Doublicat) left behind TikTok, Netflix, and Hulu, among others, on the App Store in the US, receiving an average of 4.9/5 stars and reaching 33M downloads. The app uses AI-powered deepfake technology for superimposing users’ faces on short videos from movies, television, and more. 

Based on advanced machine learning frameworks, which include GAN (generative adversarial network) – the only technology nowadays that can achieve high resolution in generating images, Reface app swaps human faces in photos, GIFs, and videos in real-time. Take just one selfie, and you will instantly become your 2000s obsession Britney Spears performing “Baby one more time,” your favorite Marvel character, or a football star stealing the limelight after scoring his wonder goal – the limit is only your imagination. More than 25 million users have tried the technology, with the app catching celebrities’ attention, including Elon Musk, Britney Spears, Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, John Legend, Chris Brown, and Snoop Dogg.

The foundersʼ success did not happen overnight. Back then, known as Neocortext, the startup was founded in 2011 by Roman Mogylnyi, Oles Petriv, and Yaroslav Boiko. Initially, the team was working on natural language processing systems. Later, Ivan Altsybieiev, Denys Dmytrenko, Dima Shvets, and Kyle Sygyda joined the team. The company’s R&D center is located in Kyiv, and the business is incorporated in the US. Now the startup got 60 people on board, but they are actively recruiting new team members.

In 2018, when the startup was working on the 2D to 3D conversion technology, they got a request to swap 20 people’s faces. Then the team began to explore open source deepfake code. That’s how the first product called Reflect appeared, which could change users’ faces in photos. In 2019, the Doublicat app was created, which allowed users to swap faces in GIF-files and instantly share them. Following the release, the app was covered by The Verge, Mashable, Forbes and TNW, and the company received a Product of the Week award at Product Hunt. After rebranding the app to Reface, the startup received investments from a number of investors, including Adventures Lab that reportedly provided USD 300 to 500k of financial support.

Although it might seem to many that the app popularity is short-term, Reface CEO Roman Mogylnyi believes it’s just the beginning predicting the rise of personalized media powered by AI, which could have a far-reaching effect on our culture. Synthetic media tools can increase humanity’s empathy and creativity, with the tech opening up opportunities for personalized content communities to grow up around stars and influencers, extending the possibilities of interaction to their fans.

“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,” Roman Mogylniy shared with TechCrunch.

“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.”

There have been numerous concerns related to deepfakes, particularly the risk of villains misusing the technology to shame or manipulate others. However, RefaceAI wants to be responsible for the tech they bring to the market. Therefore, the app doesn’t allow users to upload their own videos to be transformed into a deepfake. You can choose from celebrity clips and GIFs available in the app. Although more advanced features and user-generated content are coming in the future, it will happen only when RefaceAI creates a counter tech to spot their own fakes.

Don’t miss the opportunity to gain insights from RefaceAI Co-founder and CTO Oles Petriv at IT Arena in October, who will dwell on the new approach to content consumption, synthetic media and the level of content consumers freedom, GANs and their effect on content, and how we can prevent fakes and misuse of such technologies.