You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

This camera app uses AI to erase people from your photographs

The Verge logo The Verge 25/06/2019 James Vincent
a person standing on a sidewalk: Street photography, without the people. © Credit: Bye Bye Camera Street photography, without the people.

Bye Bye Camera is an iOS app built for the “post-human world,” says Damjanski, a mononymous artist based in New York City who helped create the software. Why post-human? Because it uses AI to remove people from images and paint over their absence.

“One joke we always make about it is: ‘finally, you can take a selfie without yourself,’” Damjanski tells The Verge.

The app costs $2.99 from the App Store, and, fair warning here, it’s not very good — or at least, it’s not flawless. Far from it. The app is slow and removes people with a great deal of mess, leaving behind a smear of pixels like an AI hit man sending a message. If you’re looking to edit out political opponents from your Instagram, you’d be better off using Photoshop. But if you want to mess around with machine learning magic, Bye Bye Camera is good fun.

The app (which The Verge spotted via Prosthetic Knowledge) was created by Damjanski and two of his friends who are all part of Do Something Good, an “incubation collective” where coders and artists pool their resources to create projects. Bye Bye Camera is one of them.

The software behind the app work is pretty straightforward. It uses an open-source object detection algorithm called YOLO to identify people (short for “You Only Look Once”) and a combination of AI systems to fill in their absence. Damjanski doesn’t go into details about these, but such painting algorithms are not uncommon. Nvidia, for example, has created a number of AI tools that generate landscapes and buildings based on users’ drawings. Adobe’s “content-aware fill,” meanwhile, offers seamless removal, even in videos.

What’s interesting is considering the future of such software. Back in 2017, an app called FaceApp began using machine learning to change people’s expressions and swap their ages and genders. Fast-forward two years, and Snapchat’s gender-swap feature has been used to catch police officers trying to hook up with underage girls. The world of AI moves fast. What’s a prototype today is just a fact of life in a few years’ time.

Damjanski says that he primarily sees the app as an artistic tool, and enjoys the mistakes it makes. “I actually really like it when it f***s up,” he says. “I’m like a small child — I’ve been taking images all the time. And when it works, great; when it doesn’t, it’s also funny.”

If you don’t want to use it on people, it works great with works of art. (A write-up of the app over at Artnome notes that this is a technique artists themselves have tried out.)

As for the “post-human” aspect, Damjanski admits that that’s mostly a tongue-in-cheek joke, with the app inspired by threats posed to our species by climate change and the like.

“We’re thinking about a future where humanity is no longer around,” he says. “One of the things I really enjoy is that the app takes out humans, but it keeps their shadows.”


More From The Verge

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon