Not rendering correctly? View this email as a web page here.

Artificial intelligence firm SenseTime in China released a filter that automatically retouches people on-the-fly. Without altering the background, the AI-enabled tool can identify, detect, enhance and touch-up faces and bodies. Released this quarter, SenseTime’s program can retouch people in still photos and on live-streamed videos in real-time. 

Here’s why this innovation is worth a look (!):

// Face forward

Amazingly, it’s only been five years since ‘selfie’ was the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year. Since then selfies have not just become a part of modern life, there have also been over 250 selfie-related fatalities. And it’s not just selfies. The combination of this new behavior with rapid developments in AI-powered facial recognition mean consumers’ faces are quickly become the new way to engage with brands: think payments, access, loyalty and much more.

// Dystopia vs You-topia

SenseTime is (in)famous for its surveillance systems, racing to a multi-billion dollar valuation on the back of its security-focused deals with the Chinese government. At the same time another Chinese unicorn Meitu has built a USD 4 billion (!) business around AI-enhanced selfies. Indeed it’s estimated that 50% of all selfies shared on Chinese social media have been touched up by the company’s software. SenseTime’s latest move should remind you: for every dystopian application of a new technology, there will another application that consumers will positively embrace! Need we remind you which one you should focus on?! 

// Accelerating expectations; conflicted demands

This innovation also perfectly captures two wider trend truths. First, customer expectations never stand still: Instagram helped us take ‘better’ photos of the world around us; Meitu made looking one’s best easy, but only in static photos; Snapchat’s augmented reality filters then made live video less intimidating. Look at these innovations and it is obvious where customer expectations would head. Second, customers aren’t always consistent! Yes, the ‘anti-Photoshop’ movement is real (and welcomed!); at the same time consumers still want their images to look flawless. Deal with it!