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Look older without FaceApp

Sogeti Labs
July 29, 2019

No worries, this quick aging trick does not require any grey hair dye or (massive) amounts of illegal substances. All you need is the notebook app at the bottom so you too may stare into the abyss like this:

A few months ago I was playing around with Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), because they’re the best AI development since sliced bread. (I refuse to believe sliced bread was invented by any other means than a neural style transfer of stacked pancakes onto a loaf of bread.) Two of our interns at the time, Vincent and Mathijs, ran into the beauty that is StyleGAN while working on their graduation project. The even nicer fork StyleGAN Encoder can transform faces to whatever it has trained on age, gender, and even expressions like smiling/frowning. We got a lot of good laughs out of terrible looking portrait photos and then went back to do our actual jobs.

Fast forward to present day

FaceApp and privacy, a tragic love story in the headlines

With FaceApp making headlines this week, it makes me realize again how ill-informed many consumers are on Terms and Conditions that they agree to when using any app, not just the Russian ones. If you read the agreements of many social media platforms and apps, you’ll notice that you’re giving away photos and videos of you and anyone you care about virtually for free. It isn’t necessarily a bad trade, but it should be more of a conscious decision.

After I found out the youngsters these days were using it to look older, I thought: “Wait…there seriously wasn’t already an app for that?” Because StyleGAN Encoder already provided it: whether you want to know what you might look like older, younger, happier, sadder, more masculine/feminine. The best part? It’s open-source, so you can see exactly what it does and host it on your own system with full control over your data! That sure makes a frown turn upside down:

Image source

But of course, all this comes at a price.

The below notebook is not the most mobile-friendly, takes a few minutes, processes jpg images only, works best with a neutral background and induces nightmarish visions if you have glasses/face-tattoos. On top of that, depending on your developer experience it would take hours to days to get it working with a GPU on your own local computer. In practice, people seem willing to trade privacy for convenience. So in this case, I’ve also made it available online. The notebook below allows you to upload your own picture and will generate a video of you grow from young to old and back. Instead of FaceApp, it’s kindly hosted on my Github (nowadays owned by Microsoft) and conveniently runs on Google’s cloud GPUs (requiring a Google account). Now you’re aware of the different options:

  • have your data processed by Russian companies in a user-friendly app who say it’s theirs now,
  • or processed by US companies in a less user-friendly format who say your data is deleted after use,
  • or have 100% control over your privacy by investing time and effort in a local solution.

Lucky you, you get to choose your own demon…which will it be?

Try it out yourself, if you still find it an acceptable trade-off

The Google Colab notebook app is based on this excellent StyleGAN Encoder fork. I simply adapted it to work with age and gender next to smiles. Have fun and share the results, unless you want yet another social platform to have access to them of course 😉

About the author

SogetiLabs gathers distinguished technology leaders from around the Sogeti world. It is an initiative explaining not how IT works, but what IT means for business.


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