Facebook Shows Off AR Masks, Stylized Filters for Live Video

After acquiring the face-tracking and 3D face replacement company MSQRD, Facebook integrated its augmented reality selfie lenses, dubbed Masks, starting with a Halloween skeleton, witch and pumpkin. Users in the U.S., U.K. and New Zealand, and public figures, will be able to use the iOS version of Masks on Facebook Mentions. The company says it will rollout masks to Android and other countries in coming months. Facebook also demonstrated stylized filters, which will be a real-time processing option for Live Video.

TechCrunch says that Facebook “is also offering limited-time Halloween variants of its beyond-the-Like-button emoji Reactions, like a laughing witch instead of the Haha reaction, a Wowed ghost, sad Frankenstein and a mad jack’o’lantern.”

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After Facebook bought MSQRD in March, the company “briefly tested using a similar technology to offer Canadians and Brazilians some Olympic-themed masks for traditional photos and videos.” But Halloween, historically one of Facebook’s most active seasons, is the ideal time to launch Masks.

With Masks, users launch a Live video with the button on their Timeline, News Feed or Page, “tap the magic wand in the upper left corner” for special effects, select the masks icon, and then tap on any of the masks to try them out with their own faces. With this new feature, says TechCrunch, Facebook is trying to revive a sense of “ahead-of-the-curve hipness … to stem the shift of engagement elsewhere by showing it can offer zany creative tools, not just text status updates, baby photos and engagement announcements.”

According to TechCrunch, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg enthused that a prototype “stylized filter feature” for Live Video to be “in your hands soon!” But the company isn’t alone in issuing creative filters for live broadcasts. Google just published a blog post about “a single specialized neural network that lets users mix different styles to create a single image with multiple input styles.”

A scrappy Moscow-based startup, Prisma, is also in the game, having launched an art filter app this last summer that garnered more than 70 million downloads by October.

Prisma co-founder Alexey Moiseenkov demonstrated the company’s “style transfer technique” via Facebook Live, and held a Q&A in English and Russian for viewers. “It’s really cool that Google and Facebook are trying to copy this but I think that’s the evidence that style transfer and all this on-device deep learning stuff matters a lot for every big company in the world,” he said.

With its new feature, Prisma processes video on the device. “We want to bring the ultimate way to express yourself in terms of videos, and also augmented reality and all this stuff — I think that’s huge because it’s changed the emotional experience,” said Moiseenkov, who added that the iOS app would be first to get the live feature, most likely later this week.