Artificial intelligence (AI) has become deeply integrated into our daily lives in recent years. From Siri and Alexa to self-driving cars, AI is automating tasks and transforming how we interact with technology. Now, AI is making its way onto one of the world’s most popular social media platforms – Instagram.
One AI app, in particular, has quickly risen to prominence on Instagram. It’s called Lensa AI, and chances are you’ve seen the unique AI-generated avatar portraits it creates pop up on your feed. So what exactly is Lensa AI, how does it work, and why did it explode in popularity on Instagram? Let’s take a closer look what is the AI app everyone is using on Instagram.
What is Lensa AI?
Lensa AI is a photo and video editing app that utilizes artificial intelligence to apply different filters, effects, and modifications to photos and videos. Prisma Labs created it and first launched it in 2018.
The app offers a range of AI-powered editing features, including:
- AI avatars – This generates stylized cartoon avatars from your face photos. It’s the feature that recently went viral.
- Magic effects – Special effects like fire and lighting can be added to photos.
- Style transfer – Your photo is transformed into art styles like oil painting or pencil sketch.
- Color pop – The app can detect objects and people and make them pop with color while turning the background black & white.
- Portrait background changer – Easily change or remove the background of portrait photos.
In summary, Lensa AI lets you apply a range of AI-generated effects and modifications to enhance your photos and videos. However, the launch of the AI avatar feature truly propelled the app to fame recently.
The Rise of Lensa AI’s AI Avatars
In November 2022, Lensa AI introduced its new AI avatar feature. It quickly went viral as people began sharing their unique avatars the app generated.
Here’s how the AI avatar feature works:
- Users upload 10-20 photos of their faces to the app, and a minimum of 10 photos is required.
- The photos should capture the user from different angles and with other expressions. Selfies tend to work better than group shots.
- Lensa AI’s AI algorithm analyzes the facial data points in the photos, including bone structure, skin tone, and eye shape.
- Using this data, the algorithm generates a custom avatar consisting of 50-200 stylized portraits of the user.
- The AI avatars have an artsy, anime-inspired look. Each avatar portrait applies different poses, expressions, effects, and accessories.
- Users can pick their favorite portraits to share on social media or use as profile photos. The complete Avatar collection is available as an in-app purchase.
In essence, the AI avatars create a highly personalized cartoon-like depiction of the user based on their facial data. The results range from rough sketches to vivid anime-style portraits.
Why Lensa AI Avatars Went Viral on Instagram
It’s easy to see why the AI avatars took off on visual social media platforms like Instagram.
Here are some key reasons the feature blew up:
The Stylised Artistic Look
The avatars have a very distinct visual style. They resemble anime/cartoon portraits come to life. This artistic, stylized look appealed to Instagram users, who were drawn to their almost unbelievable quality.
No two avatars generated by Lensa AI look precisely alike. Because they are derived from the user’s unique facial data, the result is highly personalized content tailored to each individual. This makes it very shareable.
The Shock & Awe Factor
Seeing an AI generate such intricate and detailed portraits from scratch surprises people. The “wow, how did it do that?” reaction helps increase engagement and shares.
Flexing Creative Skills
The AI avatars present people with a new way to showcase their creativity. Styling the different avatar portraits with various poses, angles, expressions, effects, and more allows users to flex their creative skills.
As a relatively new AI capability, the avatars benefited hugely from novelty appeal. People love trying out new viral apps and effects to stay on trend—the aura of novelty and exclusivity surrounding the avatars when they first launched contributed to their appeal.
Vanity & Self-Expression
People enjoy seeing caricature versions of themselves! The avatars tickle that vain part of ourselves that finds it fun and gratifying to see our faces transformed into personalized art. The avatars provide a new means for self-expression and identity.
Lensa AI Subscription Plans & Pricing
So, how much does it cost to generate your own AI avatars using Lensa? The app offers both free and paid subscription plans:
- Generate three free trial avatars to test out the feature. Watermarks are added.
- Access basic editing features like filters and cropping.
- It is limited to standard image resolution.
Magic ($7.99 per month)
- Fifty avatars were generated. No watermarks.
- Unlimited avatar generations.
- High-res avatar downloads.
- Full access to all editing features.
Lensa AI ($29.99 one-time payment)
- Two hundred avatars were generated. No watermarks.
- Unlimited high-res avatar downloads.
- Full access to all app features and updates.
So, users must pay either a monthly subscription or a one-time fee to generate a complete set of high-quality AI avatars without watermarks. Many users feel the splurge is worth it for the social media clout!
Privacy Concerns Around Lensa AI
However, the viral craze around Lensa AI hasn’t been without some controversy. As the app requires users to upload their photos, concerns have been raised about privacy and data usage.
Here are some of the privacy concerns surrounding the AI avatar feature in particular:
- How is the facial data used? Lensa states they only use the data to generate the avatars. However, there is uncertainty about how the data could be leveraged.
- Lack of user consent. Lensa owns the privatized content generated, such as the unique avatar portraits. Users don’t have full authority to permit or restrict the usage of the avatars.
- Potential for ethical issues. As AI capabilities advance, there are worries about potential misuse like deep fakes. Strict governance around how AI apps use personal data is essential.
While Lensa claims they have security measures to protect user data, people considering the app should know the privacy implications. More transparency from Lensa around how they utilize sensitive user data would help reassure concerned users.
Alternatives to Lensa for AI Avatars
Lensa AI isn’t the only app to generate AI avatars from your selfies.
Here are some alternative apps people are using:
Famous for its viral aging filters, FaceApp also has an anime-style avatar feature. It’s more limited than Lensa, offering just four avatar styles, but it provides a free option to test out.
This app has a similar AI avatar generator to Lensa but has editing features to customize hair, clothes, face shape, and more. Pricing starts at $3.99 per month.
This website by research lab Anthropic lets you create a PFP (profile photo) avatar. The AI avatars have a more realistic art style than Lensa’s anime creations. It’s free to generate a single avatar.
Cartoon Me has a range of artistic filters to transform your selfie into a cartoon or pencil sketch portrait. The basic app is free, with paid subscriptions offering extended features.
So, while Lensa sparked the latest avatar trend, plenty of apps offer their take on AI-generated alter egos for those concerned about Lensa’s data practices.
The Future of AI Avatars
AI avatars represent an exciting new frontier for expressing our identities and creativity online. As the technology continues advancing, here are some possible ways we could see AI avatars evolving:
- Hyper-realistic avatars – More sophisticated AI could produce stunningly lifelike, detailed avatars replicating our exact likeness.
- Animated avatars – Similar to Bitmoji, avatars could become animated, allowing us to send mini-clips of our avatars dancing, winking, blowing kisses, and more.
- Gaming & VR integration – Imagine inserting your personalized avatar into games and virtual reality environments.
- Customization – Currently, apps limit how much users can modify their avatars. However, increased customization options for skin tone, body type, outfits, accessories, and more would allow for greater self-expression.
- Digital collectibles – Unique avatar art and modifications could become tradeable digital collectibles, similar to NFTs.
- Security improvements – As avatars advance, better safeguarding of biometric data and ensuring user consent on data usage will be critical.
- Commercial applications – Brands may leverage AI avatars for advertising, virtual influencers, or video game characters. However, ethical usage and promoting diversity will be essential.
- Mainstream social acceptance – If metaverse environments like VR Chat continue growing, personalized digital avatars for our virtual self may become as commonplace as choosing a profile pic.
So, in many ways, the current craze over AI avatars feels like just the beginning. Technology has an enormous scope to transform how we represent ourselves online. However, it will be equally crucial that avatars promote positive self-expression while protecting user privacy and security.
5 Key Takeaways About Lensa AI’s Viral Avatar Feature
To summarize the key points covering the Lensa AI avatar phenomenon:
- Lensa AI is a photo editing app that applies AI-powered effects and modifications to photos and videos. Their new AI avatar feature went viral in November 2022.
- The AI avatars are generated by analyzing facial data from user selfies. Each set of avatars has a unique stylized anime/cartoon art style.
- The reasons the avatars exploded on Instagram include their artistic flair, personalized element, novelty factor, and creative self-expression potential.
- Users must purchase a paid subscription to generate a set of high-res avatars without watermarks to share on social media.
- Concerns have arisen around how securely the app manages the biometric facial data required to create the avatars.
Lensa AI tapped into people’s desire for novel forms of self-expression and creativity online. While the AI avatars present some concerns around biometric data usage, they offer an intriguing glimpse into how AI could transform social media identity and culture.
As avatar technology matures, increased personalization and integration into digital ecosystems seem likely. However, as this emerging capability advances, keeping user privacy, security, and safety at the forefront will be critical. For those excited to try out AI-generated alter-egos, they examine apps closely before uploading personal data.
Used responsibly and ethically, AI avatars could allow people to explore their identities in new imaginative ways and connect in immersive virtual worlds. But we must see whether these personalized avatars ultimately become our digital doppelgangers or a passing social media fad. Only time will tell, but the AI genie is already out of the bottle.
How many photos do you need to create the avatars?
Lensa recommends uploading 10-20 photos for the AI to generate quality results. The more photos, the better, capturing your face from different angles.
What kind of photos work best?
Straight-on selfies give the best results. Make sure your whole face is visible and not obscured. Avoid group shots, heavily edited photos, and snapshots with filters.
How many avatars do you get?
With the one-time Lensa AI purchase, you get 200 avatar images. The monthly Magic subscription provides 50 avatars; you can generate more over time.
How long does it take to create the avatars?
After uploading your photos, generating the complete set of avatars can take 12-24 hours. You’ll receive periodic updates on the progress.
Can you customize or edit the avatars?
You cannot modify the avatars much; you can only change the order or select your favorites. Future updates may add increased customization options.
What are the privacy concerns?