Reface, oh, what a company! They specialize in the world of content creation, spiced up with a generous sprinkle of artificial intelligence. Their noble quest? To hand over the keys to creativity to the masses. You see, they have this unwavering faith that every Tom, Helen, and Harry is a creative genius deep down, just waiting for the right app to unlock their inner Vincent van Gogh.

So, Reface uses its AI arsenal to whip up products that let you swap faces and get your creative juices flowing. Whether you’re an artistic maestro or just a clumsy doodler, they’ve got your back. They’re all about sharing the love, spreading the content creation joy, and democratizing the digital arts, one face swap at a time.

With a modest team of 190 folks, mainly geeky developers and creative designers, and a tech-savvy R&D squad, they’re tirelessly chasing the latest tech trends. Why? Well, because they want to gift the world with more innovative gizmos that transform everyday Joes into content creators extraordinaire.

Oh, and did I mention that most of this creative powerhouse resides in Ukraine? Yes, indeed, Reface is proudly waving the flag of Ukrainian innovation, turning face swaps (and not only them) into a high art form.

Soooo… let’s talk to Anton Volovyk, Co-CEO of Reface company.

Anton, please provide a brief overview of Reface and its mission regarding artificial intelligence.

Reface is now more than just a face-swapping app; it is a multi-product company with six real-time products. Furthermore, we have numerous other products in various stages of iteration, some just in the idea phase and others already integrated with a few users. Therefore, Reface has significantly transformed over the last few years from a company solely focused on one app technology to a significant content creation conglomerate.

What unites us and remains unchanged since the company’s inception is our mission, “Empower anyone to create amazing content.” To decipher these words, we believe that all people are potentially creative, but not all express that potential due to a lack of opportunities or fear. Reface’s mission is to make innovative tools accessible to a wide range of people through technology.

This trend in technological development is critically important, as new technologies emerge almost every month in the machine learning and artificial intelligence market, typically presented in a raw, unpolished format, potentially opening new possibilities for creating engaging and emotional content. Reface’s task as a company is to make these technologies accessible to the general public.

Comparing us to other content creation companies like Adobe, which has millions of various products and specializes in specific creator audiences, we stand out with our simplified and accessible toolset. Reface caters to different user categories, including those seeking easy and intuitive solutions for content creation. We enable users to create interesting content with just one click without additional training. Our products are available directly on their mobile devices, making the content creation process even more accessible and convenient.

Reface is a collective working in the content creation field, and our main goal is to democratize new content creation technologies for millions of people worldwide. Currently, our products are installed on approximately 250 million devices. They are used by individuals of various age groups, including teenagers aged 10 to 15 and adults who understand how to work with these tools.

Read more: Top AI-Powered Avatar Generator Tools

In this context, Reface is a shining example of how we use technology to make content creation accessible to a wide range of users, fostering creativity and self-expression.

Image from the interview edited with the Filter: Shkrek.

Reface has been using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies long before the emergence of chat GPT. Were you preparing for the AI era, or was this a focus from the beginning?

In fact, Reface was founded 6 years ago, and from the very beginning, our company was focused on using technology to create new possibilities. So, we established the company with AI even before this technology became widely known. And why is that? When you create a startup or a new company, you need to look a bit ahead, and there’s never a hundred percent certainty about the future. However, the task of a company’s leader, its founder, and the person creating the product is to foresee the future and make assumptions about what the product will be like. For us, even 6 years ago, it was evident that we should use AI technologies, and their capabilities would grow in quality and become more accessible to a wide range of users. So we made the assumption that sooner or later, this technology would become available in the market, and we intended to be ahead of many others.

Six years is a significantly long period for any company, and not all projects can survive such a prolonged time and become so successful. What has been the evolution of the Reface company during this period?

Regarding the first few years of the company’s existence, it was challenging for me to speak since I wasn’t part of the team at that time. However, the most significant growth for Reface happened in the summer of 2020 when the face-swap technology application was introduced. This technology allowed inserting any face into any video with just one click, and it became very popular. Interestingly, Reface was initially focused on developing solutions for businesses (B2B), and various content creators, advertising agencies, and content owners turned to the company to use this technology to enhance their content.

However, it turned out that the B2B market had its peculiarities, including a lengthy sales process and the inability to quickly create high-quality videos. So Reface decided to expand its audience and offer the face-swap technology to a broader range of users.

This decision proved to be very successful, thanks to the combination of technology, user capabilities, short video clips, and high-quality processing. The result was the app’s popularity and viral success.

Reface App Ad Campaign on Instagram

One of the key milestones in the company’s development was the investment from Andreessen Horowitz at the end of 2020. This investment allowed Reface to delve into the development of a machine learning-based social platform. This platform aimed to give creative individuals the opportunity to express themselves and develop their skills.

However, the implementation of this project proved to be challenging due to the complexity of technological solutions and competition in the social media market. As a result, Reface decided to expand its product range and offer content creation tools to a wide range of users. Thus, the company released various products that go beyond the Reface app and serve as content creation tools. Among these products is Revive, which animates photos, and Restyle, which uses AI to create video filters. Restyle became a special hit and received high ratings in the App Store, including top positions in the Latin American App Store. By the way, Restyle is my favorite product, just so you know.

Source: Restyle Main Page

Many people are familiar with Reface, but they may know less about other platforms. However, we will try to rectify this situation. In general, here’s a more general question: as creators of Reface, what do you think is the impact of AI on the creative industry?

Regarding the first question, it seems that there is a lot of information now, but real changes in the creative industry haven’t occurred as much as it may seem. Often, a topic starts to gain popularity, and people start discussing it extensively, and the media supports this content. It may seem like the world is changing right now, but in reality, new technologies have not yet significantly affected many work processes and routine tasks in the creative field. For example, technologies like Stable Diffusion, DALI-2, and others are not yet widely integrated into the workflow.

Regarding the impact of AI on the creative industry, there are various perspectives. Some believe that AI can take away jobs and create high-quality content like a human, which may lead to the risk of job loss. There is also the abstract and complex nature of creativity, which is considered challenging to model with AI.

On the other hand, innovations in AI can provide creative individuals with new tools for creativity and the creation of unique content. Technology can simplify and speed up the process of working on projects and offer more opportunities for self-expression. Instead of seeing AI as a threat, it can be seen as a partner that contributes to achieving better results in creative endeavors.

As for the second question about the unique advantages of Reface for content creation, this platform provides innovative tools for transforming ordinary photos and videos into personalized artistic masterpieces. Thanks to artificial intelligence, Reface allows users to easily swap faces of famous individuals in their own videos, opening up countless possibilities for creativity and humor. Along with this, Reface is expanding its product lineup, including Revive and Restyle, which enable animating photos and applying AI filters to videos. These tools open up new ways to create engaging and impressive content that appeals to various categories of users and enhances their creative potential. Reface is becoming an innovator that helps people express themselves and develop their creative skills.

Nowadays, everyone understands that computers haven’t really replaced humans. We have roughly the same level of unemployment as before. Even when we look back at the 50s, 60s, and 70s, everyone thought that with the advent of computers, various professions would disappear completely. But that didn’t happen.

Image from the interview edited with the Filter: Animated Spy.

So, I probably belong to the second camp, those who believe that technology will bring more benefit than harm. They provide us with more tools to work with and allow us to avoid performing routine tasks that we don’t particularly like. Instead, we can focus on more interesting tasks that we want to keep for ourselves.

Another interesting example I recently learned about happened in the 50s and 60s when powerful computers and calculators emerged. Back then, there was a big concern that the profession of accountants would disappear completely. However, now we see that the number of accountants has tripled. Computers didn’t replace their work but changed its nature. Accountants now deal with more complex calculations, planning, and other important tasks. So, I take an optimistic view of this and believe that the world is moving in the right direction despite potential negative consequences.

Regarding this, sometimes I feel that modern technologies that allow us to enhance our appearance, hide flaws, and create an ideal image create a certain moral pressure on us as a part of society. This is especially felt among those who spend most of their time with a laptop, like me. We always try to present ourselves in a better light on social media than we actually are. These apps and technologies give us the ability to create an idealized image of ourselves, but at the same time, it can lead to stress and depression. We become dependent on retouching and enhancements for our virtual image on social media, while in real life, we always have to keep ourselves in shape to avoid discrepancies between our virtual and real selves.

I understand that this is a real problem. Today, a large amount of information indicates that the development of social media can lead to various psychological difficulties among their users for various reasons. Some strive to look better, while others may feel discomfort when comparing their lifestyles with others. These are indeed important issues, and their resolution is not an easy task.

Every company working in this field tries to create something interesting to attract users and lead them to their content. However, in the end, users determine which products succeed. I believe that our products, such as Reface, help users create entertaining content and share it with friends, increasing the level of entertainment without adding extra social pressure.

Another important point that I remember is the idea that not everyone can be creative, and some people must perform routine tasks, such as cleaning or wall plastering. However, with the development of artificial intelligence, this situation may change, and everyone will have more opportunities for creativity and self-realization. This is part of the evolution of technology that opens up new possibilities for people.

Justifying your point of view, if you think about it, 200 years ago, many people didn’t have any days off. They had to work continuously to be able to provide themselves with food and shelter. Today, almost everyone has days off when they can rest and do what they like. This became possible thanks to technological progress. I am confident that society is moving in the right direction, but sometimes, we need time to realize it.

There is a beautiful phrase that says, “Laziness is the engine of progress.” For example, no one would have invented the TV remote if it wasn’t for the convenience of not having to get up and turn it on manually. The same goes for socialization. Why go out and interact with people when you can do it online? (laughs) Now, regarding our apps. You’ve already learned a bit about Revive, Reface, Memomet, and Restyle. So, we also have Unboring. Tell me about it.

Yes, Unboring is a product we launched this year. How did we come to this decision? First, historically, we have always used the mobile platform as the primary distribution point for everything we do, meaning our mobile apps for Apple and Android. But on the other hand, there is a significant number of users who prefer to use computers. So, the first reason for launching Unboring is to expand our audience.

The second reason is related to users’ real desire to get a more professional content creation experience. Some people are content with just pressing a button and getting a result. But there are those who crave a more extensive experience akin to using Photoshop. They are interested in working with a wider range of tools, the ability to work on a computer, and video editing. Our technical limitations on mobile devices created an opportunity for developing Unboring, allowing us to create more professional content.

The third reason that prompted us to launch this product is that creating products for the web platform is a simpler and faster process than for mobile devices. Currently, our company places a significant emphasis on innovation and exploring new ideas. It’s important to test all ideas. Unboring provides us with a platform where we can more rapidly develop various product scenarios and technologies and gain feedback from users.

You’re definitely a very successful company, but you surely have cases where you launched something that didn’t go as planned. What are the key problems you identified when analyzing the results, why did it happen, and how did you deal with the situation?

That’s a good question. We have more things that don’t work than things that do. Whenever you launch something new, the odds are against you. So, there have been instances where something didn’t work. In each case, we have different reasons for why something didn’t work, but when looking at why something didn’t work, we always improve on it. This R&D investment is significant in Reface. This is where we spend our money. So, we look at a few things here. First, the choice of idea and direction. It’s usually very important, too. In the beginning, you can’t always tell if something will work, but you can greatly improve the chances of success by sitting down, thinking, and talking to users before investing heavily in the product. This is something we always improve. We have definitely gotten better at this, but not 100% yet. 

The second example, which is also crucial, is stage investing. When you look at a product, any idea is a hypothesis. Your job is to verify the most critical parts of this hypothesis as quickly as possible. Besides, when you have a roadmap for a particular hypothesis, what you think will work, you also create stages at which you should stop and see. “Okay, at this stage, I should have achieved these three metrics.” Whether it works or not. If it doesn’t, I shut down the product and start doing something else. This is the second crucial thing that increases the chances of success and reduces investments in nothing. The third and very, very important thing is being honest with yourself. There’s a thing in English called the sunk cost fallacy when it’s emotionally very difficult for us to let go of things we’ve already invested a lot of time in. This actually applies to everything in life. Here, you need to be as honest as possible and acknowledge as quickly as possible that, yes, a lot of time and money were invested, but it’s not working. You need to close it, understand the reasons why it’s not working, and move on. And this is something we’re working on. And the last thing is the speed of iteration. Of course, not all products will work. That’s okay. It’s better than not releasing anything. And it’s best to release as many things as possible, to go as far as possible in this research, to understand if it works or not, and to let go.

Image from the interview edited with the Filter: Classic Cartoon.

Can you now name a product that didn’t work for you?

I think the best example is the Mocker app, which I believe can still be found in the App Store. The idea was that people were communicating more with visual images than messages. We looked at the meme market and thought it was a very interesting market. People like fun, memes convey a lot of context, and it’s a big part of the internet. But at that time (and really even now), there is no company that owns memes. There’s no one go-to tool to create memes. You have a lot of channels and friends sending you memes, but there’s no central point where they are concentrated. So we had a valid hypothesis that we could potentially, with the help of ML, build an app, a product that would allow you to quickly create memes. The big idea was that inside the app, there would be these mini-communities, you know, like in Slack, where there are 5,000 people with very similar senses of humor, and they would make jokes with Mocker. This product didn’t take off; it didn’t materialize for many reasons, but it’s one example of a hypothesis we had. It was a fairly valid one, but we abandoned it and started building something else.

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Given the nature of the industry, how quickly can you adapt to these trends and maintain your leadership position in generative AI? How quickly can you adapt, and what are you doing to maintain your leadership?

Well, I think the market has changed a lot. On the one hand, yes, there’s a lot of competition, but on the other hand, the market has grown significantly. So completely new technologies have emerged that didn’t exist before, and they’ve expanded the market. Users have become more interested in everything related to artificial intelligence. So the story is that there’s just increased demand; more companies are playing in this market, and that’s interesting. So there are more opportunities for us as a company in the market.

How do we leverage these opportunities? Absolutely, speed is crucial, and that’s why we, as Europeans, try to work as fast as possible. We have certain approaches to our organizational structure to work with small teams that can iterate ideas very quickly. We have a special innovation fund within the company that looks at ideas on one side. We have a large technical team of AI engineers who keep an eye on the latest developments, research coming out of universities, breakthrough technologies, and so on. And we have a very fast loop from having an idea we want to test to be able to build prototypes and test them with real users. To see if it works or not. I think there’s a huge benefit to Reface being a relatively large company but not having 5,000 people and so on. So we’re super active and dynamic in this regard. I don’t have the feeling that we’re falling behind in the industry.

The most pivotal year for Reface was 2020. Do you think it happened naturally, or did COVID-19 have an impact as well?

I don’t think it was such a pivotal period, and I don’t believe it was primarily due to COVID-19 and the lockdown. There are startups that were built directly because of COVID. For example, the platform Hoppin is a British startup that built virtual conference rooms. So that was definitely a COVID play because physical conferences were no longer possible, and they needed to find a way to move them online. As for Reface, I think there might have been a slight boost, but it was very secondary. People were on social media, playing with interesting things on their phones, and so on, regardless.

Image from the interview edited with the Filter: R&M.

Returning to Reface itself, let’s talk a bit about the future. In terms of future developments, innovations, and artificial intelligence, what do you plan to do in the coming times? You’re not standing still. In fact, it’s not just every year, every month, or even every week; you need to introduce something new because everything changes so quickly. What do you have in store for the near future? What should we expect?

Let’s go back a bit, and I’ll say that innovation constitutes a significant part of our work right now. We spend a lot of time and focus on exploring hypotheses and testing new ideas. Some of these ideas may not even turn into products, while others may not reach the implementation stage. Unfortunately, the details of these ideas are confidential. Nevertheless, overall, our strategy looks like this: We continue to believe that democratizing machine learning has immense potential. That’s why we’ve created a special team consisting of representatives from different fields, such as artificial intelligence, content, product, and marketing. They constantly study user trends and monitor the development of new technologies to determine how they can be used to create new product opportunities. We have an ongoing process of testing these ideas, some of which are sometimes integrated into existing products, and others lead to the creation of new products.

We also believe in the potential to enhance content creation using models with strong language capabilities, such as ChatGPT and Lama. They enable the creation of text-based content in a way that was previously only available to humans. This technology opens up possibilities for creating creative and high-quality content and helps solve complex tasks. In our opinion, the future involves autonomous agents and smart systems that will carry out many routine processes for people. For example, creating advertising campaigns could be done automatically by such systems. We are actively exploring this area, although it is technically quite challenging. One of Reface’s great advantages is our highly skilled technical team, which allows us to move forward in this direction.

What can we say to conclude?

In a world where mundane selfies and unimpressive content reign supreme, Reface is the mighty force of… face-swapping technology. Why settle for your actual face when you can be anyone or anything, right?

With an astounding number of around 200 employees (most of them playing with AI toys), Reface has unleashed its brilliance onto the unsuspecting masses. This team is on a mission to convince the world that anyone, yes, even your grandma, can create captivating content with their mesmerizing face-swapping wizardry.

But wait, for Reface isn’t content with mere face-swaps. They’re developing groundbreaking technologies, ensuring that even your pet hamster will soon be able to craft mesmerizing masterpieces. There’s a team of tech-savvy trend-watchers involved, too, because, in the tech world, knowing what’s cool before it’s cool is… well, cool. The best part? Most of this gang resides in Ukraine, making Reface one of the shining stars with Ukrainian roots. 

In the end, whether you see Reface as the champion of creativity or just another way to procrastinate, one thing’s for sure – your face, along with everyone else’s, is in for an entertaining ride. Keep swapping those faces, dear digital lovers, and remember that the world of content creation will never be the same again!

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