But behind each filter is a person who drags lines and changes shapes on the computer screen to achieve the desired look. Beauty can be subjective, but society continues to promote strict, unattainable ideals that – for women and girls – are white, slim and disproportionately feminine. .
Instagram publishes very little data about filters, especially beauty filters. In September 2020, Meta announced that more than 600 million people have tried at least one of its AR features. Metaverse is a much larger concept than Meta and other companies that invest in AR and VR products. Snap and TikTok attract a large number of filter users, though Snap is also investing in on-premises AR. Meta’s product suite includes Oculus headsets and Ray-Ban smart glasses, but it focuses on what made Facebook so popular — the face.
Beauty filters, especially those that dramatically alter the face shape and its features, are particularly popular — and controversial. Instagram banned these so-called distortion effects from October 2019 until August 2020 because of concerns about their impact on mental health. This policy has been updated to refer to filters that promote outlawed plastic surgery. The policy states that “content may not promote the use or depiction of the sale of a potentially hazardous cosmetic procedure, according to Facebook Community Standards. This includes effects depicting such procedures through surgical lines. According to a statement to the MIT Technology Review in April 2021, this policy is enforced by “a combination of humans and automated systems that review effects as they are submitted for publication.” However, the creators have told me that distortion filters are often flagged as inconsistent and it’s unclear what exactly encourages the use of plastic surgery.
“It became sensational”
While many people just use beauty filters for fun, those dog ears are actually a huge engineering feat. First, they require face recognition, where an algorithm interprets the different shades of pixels captured by the camera to identify faces and facial features. A digital mask of some standard faces is then applied to the image of the real face and adjusted to its shape, aligning the mask’s outline and virtual nose to that of the person. . On top of that mask, graphics developed by programmers create the effects seen on the screen. Computer vision technology has only in the last few years enabled this to happen in real time and in motion.
Spark AR is Instagram’s software developer kit or SDK, and it allows augmented reality creators to easily create and share face filters on the Instagram feed. It was in the filter demonstration videos on YouTube that I first encountered Florencia Solari, a popular AR technologist and Instagram filter creator. She showed me how to create a face filter that promised to plump and lift my cheeks and lips for that Kardashianesque face shape.
“Thirty-two percent of teenage girls say that when they feel bad about their bodies, Instagram makes them feel worse.”
“I have this inflater that I’m going to apply with symmetry,” says Solari, “because any modifications I make to this face, I want symmetry”. I try to keep up by dragging the contours of the digital mannequin’s cheekbones up and out with my pointer. Next, I right clicked on the map of her lower lip and selected “Increase” several times, playing God. Before long, with Solari as my instructor, I had a filter that, albeit sloppy and simple, I could upload to Instagram and hit the world.
Solari is part of a new class of AR and VR creators who have made their careers mastering this technology. She started coding at the age of 9 and was drawn to the creativity of virtual world development. Initially, creating her own filter on Instagram was a hobby. But in 2020, Solari left her full-time job as an AR developer at Ulta Beauty to pursue online AR full-time as an independent consultant. Recently, she worked with Meta and several other major brands (which she said she could not disclose) to create branded AR web experiences, including filters.
Solari’s first filter, called “vedette++,” went viral back in September 2019. “I was trying to explain what the superstar of the future would be like,” Solari said. The filter applies a metallic, slightly greenish sheen to the skin, which is fully smoothed and inflated under each eye to the point that it looks as if half a solid has been tucked inside each cheek. The lips are doubled in size and the face shape is adjusted so that the clear jawline shrinks into a small chin. “It’s an alien mix, but with a face that looks like it’s filled with Botox,” Solari said. “It really became, like, sensational.”