On Wednesday, `I posted a screenshot of the Bold Glamour TikTok filter to my Instagram Story. I captioned it “omg these filters are so toxic”. Then, the most interesting thing happened. It got a lot of reactions, particularly fire emojis and clap emojis. 

My assumption was that the clap emojis were praising what I said (about how toxic the filter is) where the fire emojis (mostly from men and young girls) were ignoring my comment and simply stating that they thought I looked nice. Maybe some of them didn’t even clock it was a filter and assumed I had worked with a really really good makeup artist that day. 

One of followers commented that she appreciated my acknowledgement of the toxicity because, unlike other filters, Bold Glamour is like “uncanny valley […] it looks so much like you but not at the same time” she told me. My best friend, a stylist based in Paris, also commented that in makes everyone’s face look the same “but not in the way other filters do, it’s more convincing”. What makes it the case?

@katherinemheigl

Ummm….I hate this bitch. #boldglamourfilter is not for me.

♬ Love – kouz1

Unlike other filters, Bold Glamour is a first look at how AI-powered tools could make face transformations harder to detect and even better at transforming how people look. Despite this, TikTok are keeping quiet about its pushing out of AI and have denied to comment to many publications regarding the use. 

Essentially, Bold Glamour is using AI even though the company rolled out a new set of AI filter tools for effects creators last month. In a February 22nd update to Effect House, its filter creation tools, TikTok announced that effects creators would now have access to a handful of generative AI effects that change a user’s facial features in real time. The new effects include an eyebrow eraser, a lip puckering effect, and a smiling effect, and creators with early access have already made filters using the new tools. In its creator guides, 

TikTok promises the generative effects match a user’s skin and are seamless.

These techniques differ from how most filter effects have been made until now. Traditional filters will usually take your 2D camera feed and map your face onto an exaggerated 3D model, says Luke Hurd, an augmented reality consultant who’s worked on Snapchat and Instagram filters. These effects can warp or glitch when you obstruct them because the 3D overlay has a hard time adhering to the layout of your face.

Coming back to what my follower, Sarah, said about it being like “uncanny valley”  Memo Akten, assistant professor of computational art and design at UC San Diego Visual Arts expresses that filters like Bold Glamour are “a bit of a milestone, and an indicator of the weirdness of the post-reality world that lies ahead.” 

Since gaining traction sometime last week, more than 9 million videos using the filter have been shared on TikTok already. Users are aware this filter is different. Unlike other filters that make it look like cartoon eyelashes or exaggerated eyeshadow has been painted onto a user’s face, the Bold Glamour modifications seem to move with the human face beneath them and even adjust when applied to masculine faces. And most notably, the filter barely distorts when a user puts their hand in front of themselves, a common occurrence with other face effects.

There are other effects that work in a similar manner, such as TikTok’s “teenage look” effect and the gender-swapping effects on Snapchat. But the reason Bold Glamour has stood out more may be because it’s less exaggerated. It’s just subtle enough to still be you and be convincing. 

Though many TikTok users are impressed with the Bold Glamour filter, many are also concerned with how an even more seamless facial modification tool could impact users’ self-esteem and sense of self. That means the uncanny feeling that comes with Bold Glamour is just the beginning. TikTok users will likely begin to see more and more filters using AI as new generative tools are opened up to more creators. Burnham worries that having a suite of powerful tools that alter a user’s appearance in real time could be a “breeding ground for body dysmorphia.” 

Naturally, we predict this could also lead to a surge in more facial surgery for ‘real life’ faces to compete with AI expectations. 

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