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Lensa AI turns your selfie into a work of art: Here’s a closer look at the app, and its policies

Prisma's Lensa AI app has gone viral on the internet as it turns selfies into works of art. But what exactly is this AI-based app all about and how does it create those magical photos? We take a closer look.

Lensa, Lensa AI, Lensa AI app, How to get Lensa AI, LensaAI app, How to use LensaAI app, AI selfieCreations from the Lensa AI app using my own selfie (Image source: Shruti Dhapola via Lensa AI)

Can artificial intelligence help create the perfect selfie or portrait? Well, that seems to be the premise with Lensa AI, a new app that has gone viral online. The app comes from Prisma Labs, the mobile technology company, best known for its previous Prisma app that allowed users to turn their photos into a painting with help of AI. But Lensa takes it a step further, it will create fantastical ‘avatars’ of you, based on the selfies you upload.

The avatar could imagine you in an ‘anime’ setting, convert your photo into a modern-day painting, or put you in a ‘cosmic’ look or imagine what you might look like if you part of a fantasy movie. No avatar is the same and the app returns a unique avatar each time you run the algorithms. But how does it work, and what should you keep in mind when using Lensa? We break this down below.

Lensa: Get ready to pay

Lensa requires that you pay every time you want to use AI to create the ‘Magic Avatars,’ which is the whole reason for downloading the app. You can use the free version to edit selfies, photos, and videos with the help of its AI software, but really everyone wants the ‘Magic Avatars’.

You can sign up for the subscription which is currently being offered at Rs 2,499 per year, a 50 per cent discount from the Rs 4,999 price. This subscription price appears to be the same for iOS and Android. You get a free trial of one week as well, and you can cancel it anytime. If you don’t wish to subscribe, you can continue to use the app. However, the cost of accessing the ‘Magic Avatars’ is higher when you use them without a subscription.

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Each time you run the avatars, you will need to pay, this is even when you have subscribed. The cost varies on the number of avatars you want to create ranging from 50 to 100 to 200. Expect to shell out a minimum of Rs 400 without a subscription and around Rs 179 with a subscription.

The Lensa app requires you pay for creating AI art.

LensaAI: What exactly are the avatars?

Once you have installed the app and moved past the subscription page, you will see an option for ‘Magic Avatars’. Tap on those and you will be asked to upload 10-20 selfies so the AI algorithm can create those magical photos. Lensa does say that you need to make sure the selfie has your face clearly in focus. Users should also make sure that it isn’t a selfie where their face is half covered. The face needs to be in sharp focus for the best results.

Once you upload these photos, you can choose your gender (female, male or other) and then tap on create these avatars. You will be asked to pay for the service as we’ve mentioned above. If you are using it on an iPhone, the payment is deducted from your Apple ID balance. Once done, the process begins and takes around 15 minutes before the Avatars are created.

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You can ensure the app notifies you when Lensa is ready and then view these once done. Check out some of the results I got below.

An Avatar generated using the Lensa App.

Lensa: Okay, how good are the results?

Lensa gives very interesting results. If you’ve been looking for someone to convert your selfie into a work of art, LensaAI certainly delivers on that. The art resembles a lot of the work that one might have seen in digital space earlier. In my case, some of my avatars made me look distinctly Asian, as though I were a pop star in Japan or South Korea. In others, I look like a character in some anime show, not at all recognisable. But given the theme is anime, these results are not surprising at all. There are a few avatars, where it is distinctly me, but of course, an enhanced version with the perfect nose, eyes, skin tone and hair. It is the kind of artwork I would use and share on social media. Frankly, so would most users, especially since you are paying for it.

I should point out that the app is collecting information about your gender, because according to the privacy policy, “this information is used by the AI algorithm to generate the avatar that will be in accordance with your gender.” So if you pick female, then you will receive more feminine-like avatars. But as some women have pointed out how Lensa is creating avatars with noticeably larger breasts. I did notice this for a few of mine as well, which was interesting given most of my selfies are restricted just to my face. Again, this could also be because it is taking cues from anime, where such imagery is common. But it is clear that Lensa is making some sort of assumption that most women are well-endowed, which is disturbing.

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Another Avatar created by Lensa.

Lensa: What about privacy and data usage?

So first up, keep in mind that your photos are being used to train Lensa’s algorithms further. As Prisma Labs states their goal is to “move forward mobile photography and video creation to the next level using neural networks, deep learning and computer vision technics.” And most neural networks require large chunks of data for training. So yes, in a way when you use the service you are paying to improve the technology.

Another Avatar that Lensa generated based on my selfies.

The terms of service clearly state, “We use your photos and videos to train our algorithms to perform better and show you better results. We have a legitimate interest to do so, and we do our best to minimise the data that we receive and not to override the rights and freedoms of the users in this regard.”

Also, keep in mind that like other apps Lensa also collect other data about you from the kind of device you use to the IP, etc. You can go on iOS and ask the app not to track your behaviour on other apps as well. Remember, you have to grant the app access to your camera roll, so it can access that data, though you can revoke this permission in the privacy settings of your Android and iOS device. The photos are automatically deleted when used for Magic Avatars after the AI results are generated. Lensa also states that those using the Magic Avatar feature need to be above the age of 18.

But photos or videos uploaded for regular editing are stored on Lensa’s systems. According to Lensa, “All metadata that may be associated with your photos and videos by default (including, for example, geotags)” is deleted “before storing your photos or videos to our systems.” All the photos you upload for creating Avatars are deleted immediately after your avatars are ready.

Lensa’s privacy policy also mentions how it processes the photos and videos that you upload for the regular editing and tweaking process. This bit does not relate to selfies uploaded to create avatars. It reads that while the company does not have access to the original photos, they only see “anonymized information,” regarding the face and its details. “None of the information collected by the TrueDepth API ever leaves the user’s device nor is it persistently stored on the device,” adds the policy.

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Remember that the Face Data is stored online for processing, and it could be shared or transferred to Lensa’s cloud providers, which are Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Service.

The company says it does not use face data to identify any individual user or sell it for marketing or advertising purposes. However, the terms of service also mention that when you share these photos with Lensa you are granting it a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, distribute, create derivative works of your User Content, without any additional compensation to you and always subject to your additional explicit consent for such use where required by applicable law and as stated in our Privacy Policy (the “Company License”).”

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Also, when you share this content on social media, which is the Magic Avatars and tag Lensa you “grant to the Company a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, revocable and transferable license to use that User Content, and namely reproduce, distribute, modify, create derivative works, publicly display and publicly perform or otherwise use that respective User Content or any of its part, for the purpose of promoting and advertising Lensa and the Company’s services (“marketing license”).” Users have the option of revoking this licence by email and contacting the company as well.

First published on: 08-12-2022 at 16:22 IST
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