Facebook Is Working on an Artsy Video Filter

October 26, 2016, 12:24 AM UTC
Key Speakers At The WSJDLive Global Technology Conference
Christopher "Chris" Cox, chief product officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the WSJDLive Global Technology Conference in Laguna Beach, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. The conference brings together an unmatched group of top CEOs, founders, pioneers, investors and luminaries to explore tech opportunities emerging around the world. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook doesn’t want video to remain simple and boring—in fact, it wants it to be augmented.

Facebook head of product Chris Cox demonstrated a prototype of a filter that overlays the style of famous painters onto images and video on stage Tuesday at a tech conference in Laguna Beach, Calif. hosted by the Wall Street Journal. A large screen projected a live feed of Cox’s smartphone camera, showing an altered version of the audience as he flipped through various filters.

Facebook (FB) believes that in five years, 70% of all Internet activity will be video streaming, according to Cox, so the company is making sure that its camera-related products don’t fall behind.

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“How do you make it easy for somebody to capture and create a video that is nice using a mobile phone?” asked Cox, adding that photo-sharing network Instagram, which Facebook bought in 2012, has done a good job at letting users produce interesting and appealing photos. Last year, Facebook introduced a live video broadcasting tool to compete with a similar service from Twitter.

The filter Cox demonstrated is based on a technology outlined in a paper published in Germany this year, he explained. The technology, called “style transfer,” lets you take an artist, like a Monet or a Rembrandt, and transfer the representation of the style of that painter onto any image,” said Cox, adding that it uses an artificial intelligence technique called convolutional neural nets, along with computer vision technology. The filtering happens in real-time on the mobile device, instead of on a remote server, a Facebook spokeswoman told Fortune via email.

This type of photo and video technology is an area Facebook is “really invested in,” said Cox, calling it an early application of augmented reality.

Facebook Will Be All Video in 5 Years

The feature Cox demonstrated isn’t currently available on any of Facebook’s services, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it is integrated in the near future.

The artsy filters are very similar to those found on Prisma, a mobile app that has generated a lot of buzz in Silicon Valley in recent months, thanks to its popular creative filters for photos and videos. In July, Prisma spurred rumors it could be in acquisition talks with Facebook when its founders posted on social media about visiting the social network’s headquarters. However, a Facebook spokeswoman told Fortune that the prototype is not built using Prisma’s technology.

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