After experiencing the AI ​​camera app that topped the App Store, I feel that Miaoya Camera is no longer good.

Taking ID photos actually depends on the right time, place and people. You may have been intimidated by the intensive photoshoot, confused about how to change the blue background to white, or have been manipulated by the graduation photo master who cut through the mess quickly.

Nowadays, AI has become a new choice. This "photographer" is cheap, convenient, and silent. As long as you upload a selfie with your finger, it can help you process it into a photo.

Data can best illustrate how urgently needed ID photos are and how fierce the people’s voice is. At the end of July, the 9.9 yuan "Miaoya Camera" had four to five thousand people queuing up, and even the servers were crowded.

▲ Works by EPIK.

Recently, another overseas version of "Miaoya Camera" called EPIK has emerged from the scene. It once topped the US App Store and is still in the top three, second only to the overseas version of Pinduoduo.

Overseas version of "Miao Duck Camera", how to eat it all over the world with one trick

Students who graduate from American high schools often take photos of their graduation yearbooks as souvenirs. In front of the blue-gray background, the characters have relaxed postures and confident expressions. There is no cookie-cutter makeup or glowing white skin.

▲ Will Smith’s graduation photo.

Nowadays, this kind of American retro is also reflected in popular Netflix dramas such as "Stranger Things", used by Korean pop music groups, and has emerged in domestic Internet celebrity photo studios. There are many DIY tutorials and photo "onshore" guides in Xiaohongshu. .

You can also get American-style ID photos with one click. The AI ​​camera EPIK is waiting for you to download and travel back to the nostalgic style of the 1990s.

To let EPIK generate photos, there are only three simple steps: upload 8 to 12 selfies, select your gender, and purchase a paid plan – $5.99 or $9.99. The difference is the generation speed, the former within 24 hours and the latter within 2 hours.

Just like when I experienced the Miaoya Camera, I also carefully selected 10 public photos of Musk to upload. The actual generation time was 18 minutes.

EPIK knows how to "draw inferences from one example". If you give it 10 pictures, it will return 60 pictures to you. It can even help you divide it into 6 scenes: basic, most fashionable, smartest, best at sports, most likely to succeed, and most likely to succeed. With musical elements, each scene has 10 pictures.

▲ From left to right, they belong to the fashion, sports, and success categories respectively.

After generating so many pictures, EPIK, which has a good Internet sense, also asked you if you would like to make a 25-second video, obviously hoping that you would spread it on social media.

At first glance, EPIK makes Musk look handsome, but upon closer inspection, there are many flaws.

This strange yet familiar face always feels like something has been stabbed somewhere. You can find shadows of the history teacher in "The Vampire Diaries", rock musician David Bowie, and even former US President Clinton.

How many fingers are there on the left hand that touches the head is a mystery, not to mention that the fingers can be integrated with the neck and racket. Unexpectedly, 2023 will still be a test for AI.

The hair of several people has not been trimmed properly. It is like a mid-term assignment for a college PS elective course. It is recommended that the AI ​​stylist take a refresher course.

In addition to generating American retro photos, EPIK also has many AI functions, such as changing hair color, removing background images, modifying facial features and expressions, etc., but this is another price and requires you to subscribe to the pro version, which is US$8.5 per month or US$39 per year. Dollar.

I found some of the features that I could try for free and gave it a try. Double eyelids can be transformed into single eyelids in seconds, and plastic surgery can be completed in an instant.

Cutting out multiple photos of people at once is a bit like the quick cutout function that comes with iOS 16. When combined together, it becomes a mobile wallpaper.

If you don’t want to spend money to subscribe to the pro version, you can also repackage them with free templates.

Meitu Xiuxiu and Butter Camera have a strong sense of familiarity, but EPIK’s templates always have a Korean idol style.

In fact, EPIK was developed by a Korean company – SNOW Corporation. It is a subsidiary of Naver, South Korea's largest Internet service company, and also owns camera applications such as "Asian version of Snapchat" SNOW.

Each AI camera can be popular for 15 minutes

Search the #epik tag on Instagram, and many big Vs are posting their own AI selfies, including beauty influencers, actors and singers, fashion models, game anchors, etc.

▲ Actor Keke Palmer with 13.67 million Instagram followers.

Miaoya Camera is popular on WeChat Moments and Xiaohongshu, and EPIK is popular on Instagram and TikTok. To some extent, the path to the popularity of AI cameras is so similar.

The templates given by the AI ​​camera are basically based on the shoulders of the predecessors. Ancient style, Hong Kong style, Korean style, and campus style are replicas of already popular styles. It seems that every copy is for the new photo studio. Add another brick to the grave.

▲ Picture from: Miaoya Camera

Their business models are also very different, with in-app payment to generate photos and monthly subscriptions to unlock more features, without fear of taking money out of your pocket.

The AI ​​camera that topped the App Store in the US before EPIK was the workplace version of the "Miaoya Camera" Remini. As the name suggests, it can generate formal photos of people wearing suits and ties based on raunchy selfies, which can be used on job search platforms such as LinkedIn.

The "#Remini" tag has been viewed more than 1.4 billion times on TikTok, and short "cross-dressing" videos ranging from selfies to AI photos have even reached millions of likes.

▲ Picture from: TikTok@gracesplace

These AI cameras are popular for two reasons. On the one hand, the underlying technology is invisible and intangible to most people, and few can deploy Stable Diffusion locally for "self-reliance." As a user, apps are the most familiar form.

On the other hand, they are like the special effects of beauty applications. The use process is simple and interesting, which contrasts with daily life, but the results retain a certain degree of reality, truly bordering on life, and closely related to scenes such as job hunting and photo shoots. The developers of Remini put it bluntly:

We found that these photos elicited stronger emotional responses in people… and the secret sauce was a certain level of photo realism.

SNOW, which developed EPIK, also believes that becoming popular is inseparable from emotional factors. Graduation photos are their underlying concept because it is something familiar to the whole world, and the American style brings memories to some people and satisfies curiosity to others.

Most interestingly, EPIK’s largest market by downloads is India, with the United States ranking sixth.

However, the "popular fried chicken" needs to face the reality that "the tides are changing", because the technical threshold for AI selfies is not high, and similar applications appear one after another.

In February this year, a survey by data analysis company Apptopia found that consumer interest in AI photo applications comes and goes quickly. On the graph, it looks like a steep mountain with only a split second to reach the top.

Applications such as Lensa AI, which were popular last winter, have now become less popular. In July this year, Remini replaced Meta's Threads and soared to the first place in the US App Store, but now it has dropped to more than 130.

As a product, AI cameras are no longer new. All they can offer is style and additional services, while minimizing the probability of errors and avoiding data and moral disputes.

EPIK is sensitive enough that it cannot upload photos of children, and after the AI ​​generates the image, the previously uploaded image will be deleted from the server.

AI selfie “filters” are no less useful than beauty cameras

As AI cameras gain popularity, criticism also pours in.

Disputes over quality are the most common. Some people say that it has helped their families lower the prices of photographers and photo studios, while others feel that AI can never replicate excellent photographers. But quality will advance with technology, and it is not an unsolvable situation.

There are many more issues waiting to be discussed. Screenwriter and producer Franchesca Ramsey posted on Twitter, hoping that people would stop participating in the AI ​​selfie trend, because it is spending money to train AI with your own photos, which may lead to bad consequences.

False images are being spread to deceive more people, and the technology is getting better as AI selfies become more popular.

Falsity does not mean that someone did not do something at a certain time and place; it may also mean reinforcing a stereotype.

Many TikTok users discovered that in order to make the photos look more beautiful, Remini took it upon herself to "cyber lose weight." One user criticized the AI ​​for being "fat-phobic."

▲ The left is a daily life photo, and the right is an AI picture.

EPIK actually also carries hidden prejudices. Do students with high IQs have to wear glasses and hold books, or wear white coats and have hair styles similar to Einstein's?

The categories it gives are also very stereotyped, such as fashion, sports, and music, as if choosing cheerleaders and basketball players, more like characters appearing in youth idol dramas.

The real American high school graduation photos are not that flashy. Even social media’s admiration for “American high school style” is also a pink filter for local culture.

AI produces fake content filled with filters, which may cause new social anxiety. You only see the perfect screen, but not the real person in the mirror.

This is not empty talk. In 2021, internal research documents leaked by Meta showed that many teenagers are on the verge of "depression" because of Instagram, because Instagram pays great attention to body and lifestyle, and social comparison is more serious than other platforms.

32% of underage girls say Instagram makes them feel worse when they don’t like or even hate their bodies. Instagram’s social comparison can change how young women see and describe themselves.

▲ Bloggers who look like they have perfect bodies may also have fat.

In addition to providing templates with perfect figures in batches, AI sometimes changes skin color and race, partly due to technical limitations. Remini developers said frankly:

Preserving user identity as accurately as possible is one of the most difficult challenges faced by these algorithms, and we are putting significant effort into mitigating this problem.

The prejudice doesn’t stop there. The technology media Rest Of World analyzed 3,000 AI images, and the results showed a very stereotyped world view. For example, “Indians” are almost all old men with beards, and “Mexicans” usually wear wide-brimmed hats. man in hat.

In the future where AI exists, "seeing is believing" will gradually become the tears of the times, but images still affect how we view the world, especially those things and cultures that we have not experienced personally.

Therefore, when AI cameras are regarded as novel toys, tools to improve efficiency, and rivals of new photo studios, it is also possible to see their limitations and shortcomings, and to see the silent majority that are not covered by data.

It is as sharp as autumn frost, and can ward off evil disasters. Work email: [email protected]

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