Chinese face-swapping app Zao has blown up within days of launching, however, not without widespread concerns over privacy.
Allowing users to create an almost instant deepfake using their own face in place of a celebrity’s, the app — created by social media platform developer Momo Inc. — has become incredibly popular since launching on Friday.
According to the South China Morning Post, posts with the hashtag #zao have seen more than 8 million views on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. And as Bloomberg reports, Zao is currently sitting at the top of China’s iOS store in the free download section, hitting the top by Sunday.
How does it work? Incredibly and scarily easily. Users simply upload a selfie to the app, which will drop their face onto that of famous movie stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, or John Bradley from Game of Thrones. You can only upload your face into particular movie and TV scenes available in the app — you can’t just add someone’s face into, say, a crime scene or a political moment.
Twitter user Allan Xia tried the app, taking over DiCaprio’s face in scenes from films such as Titanic and Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and more, all reportedly generated within eight seconds.
And it’s pretty effective.
In case you haven’t heard, #ZAO is a Chinese app which completely blew up since Friday. Best application of ‘Deepfake’-style AI facial replacement I’ve ever seen.
Here’s an example of me as DiCaprio (generated in under 8 secs from that one photo in the thumbnail) 🤯 pic.twitter.com/1RpnJJ3wgT
— Allan Xia (@AllanXia) September 1, 2019
Twitter user Matthew Brennan tried their face on Sheldon’s, and though it’s not as effective as the above, it only took a few seconds to make.
— Matthew Brennan (@mbrennanchina) September 1, 2019
And here’s Twitter user Sam Driver-Tweddell as Samwell Tarly from Game of Thrones.
— Sam Driver-Tweddell (@LessDefined) September 2, 2019
Zao’s popularity and dalliance into deepfakery come with inevitable privacy concerns, however. This particularly applies to the photo uploads, as Bloomberg notes, users can either add an existing photo of themselves or take new ones using the app — these include images of you blinking to assist with the realism of the deepfake rendering.