[App Friday] This trending app makes your photos sing

The Wombo.Ai app has become hugely popular recently, trending on app stores and social media alike. Wombo uses artificial intelligence to create deepfake clips close to reality.
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If you have ever wondered how Mona Lisa would look like singing - you do not have to rack your brains anymore. With deepfake app, Wombo.AI, you can make even the most unlikeliest of personalities sing to your song - that includes Donald Trump, Elon Musk, Kim Jong-un, your neighbours, friends, family - and babies too!

AI-powered lip sync app, Wombo, launched in February this year, is already hugely popular with social media users, given the ease and simplicity of use. Its Android app has been downloaded by over 10 million users already. On the App Store, the app has an impressive rating of 4.9.

We decided to check out what all the fuss was about, and here are some first impressions.

To begin with

The app is fairly easy to use, and works as a one-step process. Users do not need to create an account or sign up to get started. Once downloaded, and after clicking Let’s go! on the home screen, the app asks to click a selfie or select a photo from your phone gallery.

Once the image is in, the next page lets the user pick a song from a limited list, and once that is done, just wait for a few seconds for the app to do its job. The completed clip, hilarious and meme-worthy, can then be saved on the phone gallery, or shared on WhatsApp, Facebook, or Instagram.

How it works

For best results, users need to click or upload a clear facial picture. Images work better than graphics, caricatures and illustrations. Wombo also advises using images that have teeth visible so mouth movement looks natural. With pictures where teeth don’t show, the animation can look stretched and shadowed.

The app basically uses machine learning to spot parts of the face that need to be animated, and move them in tune with the music. It is like lip sync created by a machine.

While the app works without any hiccups on iPhones, some Android users have commented that pictures from gallery sometimes turn out to be upside down, and no options or settings are provided to counter this.

How safe is it?

With ease of use and access, comes questions on safety. Users are left wondering about data privacy, following the likes of FaceApp, the app that applies filters to photos, which ran into major privacy concerns. When FaceApp gained popularity, some users alleged the app makers collected and stored media from users’ phones.

With Wombo, the app makers mention in a simple privacy policy statement that all “facial feature data” is stored on the app for the purpose of creating the photo animation, and deleted immediately after. It also mentions that all data they collect is shared with third parties only when it is necessary to enable the functionality of the application's offerings. “We temporarily relay information about your facial features to enable the photo animation capabilities of Wombo,” it states.

The statement also claims that information, not limited to facial feature data, is collected from users when they use the app and “about the way our users spend time on the app.”

The verdict

Wombo is a remarkably simple app, and allows even digitally unsavvy folks to fiddle with it and join the growing club of “deep fake or synthetic media” enthusiasts. The free version of the app more than suffices for pure entertainment purpose, but the app also offers a freemium model with select songs that are more in demand. Users can also access a full range of features including ad free access, faster processing, and more exclusive content for Rs 410 a month, or Rs 2600 per year.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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