Social media is awash right now in selfies with weirdly realistic facial transformations thanks to a viral app, appropriately called “FaceApp.” FaceApp lets users add filters to faces to make them smile, age, and change gender, with a surprising (and sometimes creepy) level of realism. So how does FaceApp work? It’s actually surprisingly easy to use — and I’ve got the step-by-step for you right here.
FaceApp was created by a group of developers based in St. Petersburg, Russia. “We developed a new technology that uses neural networks to modify a face on any photo while keeping it photorealistic. For example, it can add a smile, change gender and age, or just make you more attractive,” Founder and CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told Tech Crunch. According to Goncharov, what sets FaceApp apart from selfie filters available on apps like Meitu and Snapchat is that FaceApp’s results are startlingly realistic. While other apps add elements that are clearly fake (and Meitu even turns users into all-out anime characters), FaceApp’s images, at least in some cases, look like they might not even be altered. (Mileage varies, of course. The quality and angle of a photo seems to heavily impact how realistic FaceApp’s results are. Some FaceApp images are very convincing, while others are very much not.)
You can get the app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. It’s free to download, but there are in-app purchases available remove ads and get other perks. After you’ve downloaded and installed FaceApp, here’s how you create your own fancy selfies:
1. Take a selfie or choose a photo from your camera roll.
When you open the app for the first time, you’ll be asked to give FaceApp access to your camera and camera roll. When you agree, you’ll see a screen pop up with a camera view up top, and photos from your camera roll on the bottom. To take a new selfie, simply push the white button in the center. To use a photo from your camera roll, scroll down and choose the image you’d like to start with.
2. Choose how many photos you want to transform.
After selecting your first photo, you’ll get to choose whether to make a single selfie or a collage of two or four selfies. If you make a collage, you have the option of choosing different photos for each spot, or using the same photo over and over and transforming it differently each time.
3. Pick your filters.
Tap on the different filters and watch the magic happen. Teeth appear out of nowhere! You suddenly age 40 years! You're suddenly a child! You’re gender presentation changes! Is this real life??
4. Download and share your new faces.
Tap the social media icons or the download button on the right to keep your new selfies or share them with friends.
5. Try to decide whether your transformed photos are amazing or super creepy.
I’m definitely falling on the “Eww, no” side of things. I can see why people are into this app — the effects really are surprisingly realistic. But that very realism is what freaks me out about it; seeing teeth that aren’t my teeth suddenly appear on my face gives me the heebie-jeebies. It’s like watching another person use my face as a mask.
Will seeing your face undergo this photorealistic transformation fill you with glee, or with a deep, visceral horror? Only one way to find out.