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Baidu Is Mashing Up Human Faces in the Name of Artificial Intelligence

The possibilities are endless. And disturbing.


Ever wondered what your face would look like if you mashed it together with President Barack Obama’s? How about Katy Perry’s? Mark Zuckerberg’s?

Well, the wait is finally over! This week, Chinese search giant Baidu launched FaceYou, a new app that distorts human faces into whichever bizarre mashup you can dream up.

 John F. Kennedy + Kurt Wagner
John F. Kennedy + Kurt Wagner

The point of the app is to show off Baidu’s artificial intelligence technology, the kind of tech that Silicon Valley’s most notable giants are scrambling to wrap their brains around. As explained in a Baidu press release, the tech inside FaceYou uses convolutional neural networks, a type of deep learning that helps computers recognize patterns in image pixels.

The tech within FaceYou identifies 72 “facial feature points, defining the mouth, nose, eyes, eyebrows, chin and jawline” for both people. Points from both faces are then overlaid, and things like skin tone are blended together.

The result? A pretty disturbing, cringe-worthy image to creep out people who used to think highly of you. And while this example of neural nets has a playful side to it, Baidu and others like Google, Facebook and Twitter are trying to use this same technology to improve all kinds of things you may use on a daily basis, like categorizing your personal photos. Baidu’s research lab, run by well-known data scientist Andrew Ng, is even building a speech recognition robot to help you diagnose your medical symptoms. (One of the company’s AI teams was also banned from a research competition after a cheating scandal this summer.)

Here’s a video tutorial for the app.

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