Last month, TikTok released new AI filter tools. The Bold Glamour effect, however, has drawn mixed reviews, and the corporation won’t reveal if it employs them.
If you’ve been scrolling through TikTok over the past week, you’ve seen a video where a woman stares at her face in the camera while appearing amazed. She touches her cheeks, lips, and eyelids as though to doubt that these features of her face are indeed real. It’s not at all me, one user remarked.
This is because the face they are caressing is not their own. The “Bold Glamour” face filter, which has been taking over the app, is to blame. Users have been video their reactions to how convincingly it modifies their appearance, whether they do it with fascination, delight, or utter fear. However, the filter has received some crazed press coverage, with headlines describing it as “terrifying” and “psychological warfare.”
Bold Glamour is one of the most remarkable TikTok effects to date, and it appears to be a first glimpse at how AI-powered technologies could make face changes even more effective at changing how individuals look while also making them tougher to spot.
Even though TikTok just released a new set of AI filter tools for effects producers, the business has repeatedly ignored emails from The Verge seeking proof that Bold Glamour uses artificial intelligence (AI).
A few generative AI effects that alter a user’s facial features in real-time will soon be available to effects makers, TikTok stated in a February 22nd update to Effect House, its filter creation tools. The new tools have already been incorporated into filters by producers with early access, and the new effects include an eyebrow remover, a lip-puckering effect, and a smiling effect.
TikTok promises that the generative effects are seamless and match a user’s skin in its creator guides.
These methods are distinct from the majority of previous methods for creating filter effects. According to Luke Hurd, an augmented reality consultant who has worked on Snapchat and Instagram filters, traditional filters typically map your face onto an exaggerated 3D model from your 2D camera feed. Because the 3D overlay has trouble adhering to your face’s layout, these effects can warp or glitch when you block them.
Memo Akten, assistant professor of computational art and design at UC San Diego Visual Arts, who has been highlighting videos of how precisely the effect changes faces, says, “This is a bit of a milestone, and an indicator of the weirdness of the post-reality world that lies ahead.”
Users’ faces are transformed in a manner that is significantly more impressive than what we have come to expect from conventional “beauty” filters with Bold Glamour. Over a matte, even complexion, it adds sharp contouring to the sides of the face and nose. The brows are symmetrical and fuller. Lips are more full. The eyes appear to be present but empty, sparkling, and cloudy. More than 9 million videos that make use of the filter have already been shared on TikTok since it started to gain traction sometime last week.
However, TikTok users have noticed that this effect is different from others, despite the face filter tropes that are present in Bold Glamour. The Bold Glamour modifications, in contrast to other filters, appear to move with the human face beneath them and even adjust when applied to masculine faces. This is in contrast to other filters, which make it appear as though cartoon eyelashes or exaggerated eyeshadow have been painted onto a user’s face. In addition, unlike other face effects, the filter barely distorts when the user puts their hand in front of themselves.
According to Hurd, for Bold Glamour to accomplish this impressive feat, it is probably making use of machine learning technologies, particularly Generative Adversarial Networks, or GANs.
According to Hurd, “GANs, in a nutshell, pit two competing neural networks against each other in a fistfight to the death.” It’s a contest between the camera’s view of your face and the style TikTok wants to morph you into in Bold Glamour. It then compares aspects of your face to a dataset of images, beginning to match against your cheeks, eyes, brows, lips, and more because it uses you. The technology eventually merges the two sets of images into one. Hurd asserts, “We can achieve a video framerate if we do this quickly enough.” Additionally, we now have a new effect similar to Bold Glamour!
According to Hurd, there are additional effects that function similarly, such as Snapchat’s gender-swapping effects and TikTok’s “teenage look” effect. However, the fact that Bold Glamour is less exaggerated may be the reason why it has stood out more. It’s just subtle enough to remain authentic and persuasive.
Akten asserts that Bold Glamour’s technology is not novel. In recent years, these technologies have undergone rapid development. He believes that the engineering to bring that technology to mobile devices in a very robust manner with minimal glitches is what makes Bold Glamour so impressive, even though the technology itself is not new.
According to Akten, “this has already been possible on desktop PCs using specialist software of course, such as deep fakes.” However, you’ll need specialized software and some technical knowledge for that. The filter on TikTok runs on a mobile device, can be accessed by billions of people, works in real-time, requires no technical knowledge, and frequently (but not always) looks completely believable.
Although many TikTok users are impressed by the Bold Glamour filter, many are also concerned about the effects that a facial modification tool that is even more seamless could have on users’ self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Even if filters aren’t specifically makeup or “beauty” effects, Spencer Burnham, an AR creator who has created popular effects for Instagram and TikTok, explains that including some level of retouching in filters is the norm rather than the exception. Even joke filters frequently include some degree of facial editings, such as blurring acne or making skin appear more even.
This indicates that Bold Glamour’s strange sensation is only the beginning. As more creators gain access to new generative tools, TikTok users are likely to see an increase in the number of AI-based filters. Burnham is concerned that having a collection of powerful tools that can instantly alter a user’s appearance could be a “breeding ground for body dysmorphia.”
We are now at a point where it is not only enhancing reality but also replacing it. He says, “It kind of scares me.”
People who use the feature on TikTok have also shared these sentiments. In a video, Joanna Kenny, a former esthetician who now uses her #poresnotflaws movement to challenge unrealistic beauty standards, said that the filter manages to look natural while producing an effect that is not like her. Kenny said, “I’ve done a lot of work to forget that I owe anyone prettiness.” When the effect was removed, she reported that the filter made her feel “ugly.”
There is a growing body of evidence that these filters are bad for mental health because they set unattainable body image standards. City, University of London researchers conducted a 2021 study on the social effects of filters. They found that 94% of female and nonbinary participants felt pressured to look a certain way, and 90% admitted to using filters or editing their images in some other way. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Cognitive Research, people only recognize when an image has been altered between 60% and 70% of the time.
The social media platforms that develop and implement beauty filters probably won’t be surprised by these outcomes. In 2021, The Wall Street Journal reported that Meta was aware at the time of publication that 1 in 3 teenage girls on Instagram felt bad about their bodies and that teens who used the app had higher rates of anxiety and depression.
For the time being, most of the reaction to Bold Glamour has been to point out how wild the effect is and how it can be used and changed. However, as more platforms adopt and improve AI-powered filters, likely, creators will soon use indistinguishable beauty filters and other cosmetic editing effects. They almost certainly are already.
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