Sergey Tokarev tells how Ukrainian app Reface taught the whole world to swap faces

Sergey Tokarev tells how Ukrainian app Reface taught the whole world to swap faces

Reface investor Sergey Tokarev spoke about one of the most successful Ukrainian tech developments and how it managed to conquer the world charts in less than a year as well as take the first places in the US App Store downloads charts.

Back in summer 2020, Reface, a face swap app for videos and GIFs, conquered the American market. The Ukrainian development, formerly called Doublicat, gained first place in the Entertainment category surpassing the downloads number of such giants as Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix. This way, it became the first Ukrainian app to reach such top positions. After a while, it gained first place in the overall chart as well.

Unlike other world-famous Ukrainian mobile apps, such as Grammarly, Travelpost, and Fander that gradually reached the world’s top positions, Reface took off at a breathtaking pace.

50 million downloads in 9 months

The official app release took place on January 13, 2020, as Doublicat app. In the first few months, it was downloaded over a million times. Six months after the release, the downloads exceeded five million. In mid-August, the app surpassed Instagram, YouTube, Zoom, Netflix, TikTok, and Amazon in a number of countries, and by the end of the month, it reached 20 million downloads. By September 7, that number had almost doubled and RefaceAI boasted of getting 35 million users. In the Android charts, the app reached first place in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, and a dozen other countries.

‘As of the end of October 2020, Reface is in the top 10 in the App Store and in the top 20 in the Google Play Top Free Entertainment Apps in the United States. Every day, there are tens of millions of videos created in the app, and the number of the app downloads has already exceeded 50 million,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

Celebrity support

Not only ordinary users appreciate the app but also world-famous celebrities. There are many artists, such as Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears, DuaLipa, Jennifer Lopez, and many others that have refaced their images.

The artists of Ukraine, a country native to the developers, also give attention to Reface. Moreover, RefaceAI even created a video ‘#Blogger’ with the singer Jerry Heil, known for the hit “Okhrana, otmyena”. In the joint video, there was extensively used the face replacement technology.

This way, according to the creators, the app’s popularity growth is by 90% organic. Since its release, the app has been mentioned over 600 times in media worldwide, including in major media such as Forbes, Mashable, Techcrunch, and VICE. According to Sergey Tokarev, in 65% of cases, users post videos and photos created in Reface in their social media accounts.

Working principle and technology

Talking about the analogue programs for swapping faces, the unique feature of Reface is based on using an exclusive technology developed in-house. Unlike other developers who use CGI (computer-generated imagery), Reface is based on the GAN (generative adversarial network) machine learning algorithm. This way, by using exclusively artificial intelligence, they have achieved the maximum realism of the final content.

‘If you compare it to analogues, the advantage of Reface is that the technology incorporated into it does not just replace one face with another with good quality, but does it in real time, literally in seconds. And you can do it on any smartphone. We have made this technology simple and accessible to everyone. You don’t need to be a professional in video processing or have any expensive equipment to do with high quality what was previously possible to do only for months and exclusively by experts,’Tokarev says.

Short story

Launched in 2011 as NeoCortext, the development company was working to improve machine learning methods. After some time, the developers began to create their own artificial intelligence algorithm to replace faces in images. The result of the work became the RefaceAI technology that later gave the name to the company.

“The team has gone through a long and difficult way. During this time, the company has accumulated enough experience to become a leader in the area. Now, there are a lot of companies that want to enter the market but there is a large gap between us and competitors in terms of technology,’ says Sergey Tokarev.

Safety first

RefaceAI pays great attention to safety and social responsibility. Aware of the risk of using technology for unscrupulous purposes, the company is taking preventive measures. Firstly, the content created in the app is marked with watermarks, and secondly, the company is simultaneously developing software that allows determining the authenticity of the video and the possible software modifications that the content may have gone.

‘At the moment, only about a tenth of the potential of our technology is in the public domain: it is possible to work only with low-quality GIF images or with a limited set of videos,’ says Tokarev.

The future is with personalization and B2B

RefaceAI’s plans are quite ambitious. In the coming year, the company plans to attract one hundred million new subscribers. At the same moment, the developers are creating several more new products. This fall, the company is planning to release a full-fledged video editor Reface Studio that will be based on the technology of fast processing of synthesized videos. And next year, there is expected to be released the Full Body Swap function, so one can swap not only the face but the whole body in images and videos.