YouTube introduces real-time face filters powered by machine-learning, but there’s a catch.
Everyone has a unique story to tell, and now YouTube creators will have the ability to make their stories even more unique through a Snapchat-esque AR selfies. This includes everything from realistic glasses and skin retouching, to X-Men-like powers and goofy “Noogle” propeller hats.
Although YouTube may be late to the game in terms of selfie filters–Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram have been offering these features for awhile now–YouTube Stories AR filters set themselves from the rest of the pack, is that YouTube will use real-time AR self-expression with machine learning to collect the 3D surface geometry mesh of your face to enable a more precise AR effect for better animation, better facial mapping, and an overall richer AR experience that you can share with your friends and followers; all done through a single camera input without the need for a dedicated depth sensor.
However, YouTube can’t deliver their AR selfie abilities all on their own. According to a Google Blog post, they are also relying on technology from TensorFlow Lite for mobile CPU inference or its new mobile GPU functionality where available, to help push AR into their platform.
This is the very same technology behind YouTube Stories’ new creator effects, available to the broader developer community via the latest ARCore SDK release and the ML Kit Face Contour Detection API.
As eager as you might be to get your hands on this update, there is a catch. YouTube’s AR selfie filter is unfortunately only available to you if you are a creator with over 10,000 followers, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have access to AR with machine learning. Google has said that they plan on using this to supercharge their Google Maps, and plan on launching a new ‘creative mode’ called Playground through the Google Pixel phone.
But is AR the right tool for YouTube channel engagement? In an interview with VRScout, SuperDuperDani, YouTube’s authority of all things Pokémon and the ultimate Pokémon Nerd with over 102K subscribers said, “My experience so far has been okay with it as far as engagement goes,” adding, “I think YouTube has a few updates to make before it’s as seamless for social communication as Instagram or Snapchat.”
One exclusive feature SuperDuperDani mentioned was that you can add AR filters to pre-recorded material, which means she can enhance her YouTube Stories in post-production, something Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook doesn’t offer to their users. Unfortunately, there are also drawbacks: “The quality of the photos/videos that are coming to YouTube stories are already higher res than other social platforms, but this also makes content take longer to load from what I noticed, which is a huge downside.”
Another feature is that YouTube stories stay up for a week instead of a day, which offers some big benefits. “I can see myself using it as a fun way to interact with my viewers more personally than a fully-edited video,” said SuperDuperDani.
Google purchased YouTube from former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawad Karim back in 2006 for a whopping $ 1.65 billion USD, and from the get go, Google had big plans with the platform beyond simple video curation. In an interview with NBC News, Google’s then Chief Executive Officer, Eric Schmidt, said, “this is the next step in the evolution of the Internet.”
Schmidt wasn’t wrong. Since its inception, almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day – and with channels such as SuperDuperDani’s as well as other creators with over 10K followers eligible to bring AR into their stories, this ends up being a huge step for the technology.
Hopefully YouTube will loosen up on the rules a bit and let all YouTube creators use their AR filter. Why only offer it to the YouTube elite? Why not share the wealth with YouTube creators with only a few thousand subscribers, or even thirteen subscribers? SuperDuperDani suggest we be patient, “Maybe they just want to build hype for once they have the AR feature fully developed.”
She’s most likely correct. I’d even bet my super rare Pikachu Illustrator card on it. Kidding, I don’t own one of those cards, and if I did, I wouldn’t be betting with it.
In the meantime, feel free to download YouTube’s AR selfie filter SDK here and start creating.
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