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Facebook teases an app that makes live video look like fine art

It's like Prisma, but live.
Nicole Lee, @nicole
10.25.16 in Mobile
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In an interview at WSJD Live, Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox showed off an interesting AI-powered app that makes live video look like the work of famous artists like Monet or Van Gogh. Cox called it a "style transfer" tech, that essentially transfers the style of a particular painter to any moving image. From the on-stage demo, it looks a lot like Prisma, an app that adds art filters to your photos and videos. But while you have to wait several seconds for Prisma to work, the demo filter was applied live on camera through augmented reality.

Indeed, as Cox moved the phone around the room, the Van Gogh filter was applied in real-time in the app. "We're making the camera a really nice creative tool, and that's the kind of thing we're very invested in right now," he said. The filters are still in the prototype stages, and he wouldn't say if these filters would just be for Facebook Live, but it does look like that's the direction the company is heading. According to Cox, 70 percent of all global internet traffic will be video in the next few years. "We're going from the voice call to the video call," he said.

At the same time, Cox and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wanted to emphasize that Facebook is a tech company, not a media company. Cox says that media is about stories, while tech is about products. At the same time though, Facebook does have content policies that are constantly evolving. For example, at first its algorithm banned the iconic "napalm girl" photo because it depicts child nudity. But it decided to allow it due to its historical significance and for the benefit of "newsworthiness." The same goes to the live video of the Falcon Heights shooting; Facebook's system automatically removed it, but the company then reinstated it.

"I think the really big question is how do we make sure that people have free expression on Facebook," said Sandberg, adding that someone's free expression can be another person's hate. She admits that the company is still evolving its policies and is seeking advice from the likes of publishers and law enforcement. "We're proud of the role we play in helping people witness," said Sandberg.

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