Wonders of Modern Photo Editors

Now you can change sex, get a tattoo and turn into an anime in one click

Reading time 7 minutes

Once again Snapchat literally blew up social networks with its new filter, which allows you to «change» sex. The girls looked at themselves as a guy, and the guys looked at themselves as a girl. Some users have even created Tinder pages for their alter ego to prank friends.

Илон Маск в «женской» версии от Snapchat
Elon Musk and his «female» version from Snapchat

It is not the first time when Snapchat developers demonstrate to the public interesting things. Take even insta-stories, the format that has been created by Snapchat team. Also masks and photos in dialogs, which disappear after 24 hours. All of that Instagram borrowed from the creators of Snapchat. Although, in a way it was not invented by them either. Some time ago, Snapchat redeemed the Looksery app, which was developed in Ukraine. The team of the same app actually made most of those «masks».

Today Snapchat really sets the bar, but it is not the only app that allows you to experiment with your appearance. There are plenty of them, and they all perform different functions – from changing the sex and age to transformation into the anime.

Meitu — transformation into the anime

Chinese app Meitu was launched way back in 2008, but it became popular only in January 2017. The mask of this photo editor increases eyes, blushes cheeks and changes facial proportions. That is how you become an anime character. The main advantage is that the app processes images in real time, so you can try on the effects before taking a photo or  a video.

Basic editor filters are free – but there are also special filters that require a paid subscription. For free you can try on Bunny ears and pretend to be sick: a face blushes, cheeks grow and virtual snot starts pouring.

Meitu - приложение для любителей японской культуры
Meitu — the app for fans of Japanese culture

FaceApp — aging, fake smile and sex change

The developers of FaceApp one of the first resorted to the use of neural networks in creating photo editors. The app is widely known for the opportunity to try on a believable smile, change the sex and look at yourself in old age. In 2017, the social network was full of collages of four photos, which appeared even on television.

Today FaceApp yields to new masks from Snapchat. New filters process images in real time and make men look like women, and women look like men way more realistic. However, FaceApp can still surprise those who just discovered it, because it alters the appearance quite plausibly. We must not forget that  the developers of Snapchat obviously got inspired by this app. Because several years ago, the developers of FaceApp introduced such filters as «sex change» and «aging».

FaceApp - нейросеть, от которой стареешь
FaceApp — neural network that makes you grow old

InkHunter — the virtual try-on of tattoos

InkHunter does not change the appearance, this application’s function is practical. It is recommended to use it before going to the tattoo parlor. With InkHunter you can try on a tattoo: the desired image will be applied to the specified area of the skin. In order to do this, you only need to draw a special sign on your hand or foot — three stripes in the form of a smiley. So the neural network recognizes it.

The app uses augmented reality technology, so the quality of the displayed tattoo is not high enough. The «tattoo» cannot be properly scaled, expanded or zoomed in to really see how the image would look on the skin. Probably the fact is that after the success of the app in 2016, it is no longer being developed.

Фото с меткой для приложения и снимки с примерами татуировок (динозаврик настоящий)
Photos with a label for the app and pictures with examples of tattoos (a dinosaur is real)

FaceTune — the simplified version of Photoshop

And finally, the most important hit in the insta-photography industry — FaceTune. It was developed by the Israeli team Lightricks. This platform has replaced Photoshop for many users. In the photo editor, you can do face tuning, whiten teeth or remove bags under the eyes. In addition, it looks quite natural.

Even the free version of FaceTune amazes with its list of features. For instance, you can «narrow» the shape of the face and highlight the cheekbones, or paint it  in any color. The app does not apply filters or «masks», but it provides tools: you need to apply the desired effects with a brush and try not to overdo it.

FaceTune - любимое приложение всех insta-блогеров
FaceTune is the favorite app of all insta bloggers

The app simplified the work on improving the appearance so much that the media started discussions. On the one hand, FaceTune is suitable for those who cannot use Photoshop, on the other — it makes it too easy to hide flaws, which makes natural beauty a rarity.

Holocaust through the prism of modernity

The story of 13-year-old Hungarian Jew Eva Heyman recreated in Instagram

Reading time 5 minutes

The story of the Jewish girl Eva Heyman, who died in the Auschwitz camp in 1944, was brought to live in Instagram. The creators of the project showed what would be the life of Eva if she posted on her social media everything she had been going through.  

«The Nazis conquered us»

The eva.stories project recreates the events which Eva wrote about in her diary. It consists of 70 short videos that reflect the life of a Jewish family during the war years. Everything is depicted in insta-stories format, in the profile, the authors of the project posted only a poster and a trailer. The role of Eva Heyman is played by British actress Mia Quiney.

View this post on Instagram

Eva.Stories Official Trailer

A post shared by Eva (@eva.stories) on

War first comes to Eva’s family when her cousin gets deported to Poland. After some time, the accomplices of the Nazis come to the pharmacy of the Eva’s grandfather and confiscate it in favor of the government. The decisive moment for Eva Heyman’s fate is the day when she sees the incoming Nazi army. From now on, she promises subscribers to broadcast everything that happens. The girl shows the details of life with a yellow star on her chest. In the ghetto.

Ева Хейман, жертва Холокоста
Eva Heyman is a Holocaust victim whose story served as a reminder of the tragedy

The project was sponsored by the Israeli businessman Mati Kochavi and his daughter Maya. It was launched on May 2nd, Holocaust Memorial Day. Before filming the story of Heyman, Mati and Maya Kochavi looked through about 30 diaries written by the victims of those events. But Eva’s diary stood out for its modernity and simpleness.

Злосчастная желтая звезда, которую евреи впоследствии были обязаны нашивать на наиболее заметные места своей одежды, стала самым зримым символом нацистского антисемитизма.
The Yellow star – a symbol of Nazi antisemitism, all Jews were obliged to sew it on prominent places of clothing

Before launching the eva.stories the authors widely announced the project both on street billboards and in social media. The initiative was supported by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. The account was also noted by different celebrities in their profiles, including the actress Gal Gadot («Wonder Woman») and the stand-up comedian Sarah Silverman. As a result, the account had around 200.000 followers before it was even launched. Now Eva’s profile has about 1.7 million subscribers.

Билборд с рекламой Instagram-аккаунта Eva.stories
The billboard advertising the Eva.stories Instagram account

The initiator and producer of the project Mati Kochavi believes that the world is beginning to forget about the terrible events of the Holocaust. That is why he created the project and invested about $5 million in it. Neither the government nor any organizations financed the creation of Eva’s profile.

Although, there are some critics on the way. Disputes in the comments under the publications in Eva’s profile do not cease. Users think that the profile is not serious enough. Critics of the project reckon that it is inappropriate to use Emoji, stickers and hashtags when it comes to the Holocaust. Many also criticize the implausibility of Eva’s modern story. For instance, how did the girl manage to charge the phone if there was no electricity in the ghetto?

According to Maya Kochavi, their team was expecting this kind of reaction as well. However, Kochavi family is convinced that they chose the best way to address the situation: the problem of antisemitism does not lose its relevance. Instagram platform was chosen for a reason: it was important to bring the issue to the younger generation.

James Gunn returns to the director’s chair for «Guardians of the Galaxy 3»

The director gets rehired after being fired for his scandalous tweets

Reading time 4 minutes

According to the report from Deadline, the company decided to reemploy Gunn several months ago. Alan Horn, the Walt Disney Studios president, was meeting with James and Marvel representatives in order to discuss the project. Gunn publicly apologized for his controversial  statements in Twitter. Consequently, Horn let him to film the third part of «Guardians of the Galaxy».

Съемки фильма должны были начаться в начале 2019 года. Однако из-за увольнения Джеймса Ганна с поста режиссера проект заморозили
Shootings were to start in the beginning of 2019. However, when the director was fired, the project got frozen

It all started in July 2018. At that time James Gunn was accused of his offensive tweets that he had been publishing from 2008 to 2011. The director joked about AIDS, violence and pedophilia. Gunn wrote that he was laughing at sick people, because laugh is the greatest remedy. In addition, he said that he did not mind violence and cannibalism when someone is really hungry. Then, Disney announced that James’s views were contrary to the values of the studio. That is how tha company broke all ties with the director.

Подборка оскорбительных твитов Джеймса Ганна
Some of Gunn’s offensive tweets

But how did it occur that the last tweet of that kind he had written in 2011, and got caught only in 2018? It’s pretty simple: Gunn’s account was full of not only jokes, but also criticism. Through Twitter, he judged Ben Shapiro, an editor of a conservative political website Breitbart. It got noticed by The Daily Caller website, where its representatives did not like Gunn’s comments. They decided to dig deeper and read the director’s old tweets. There the dirt got revealed.

James Gunn accepted his suspension with understanding and admitted his mistakes. First of all, the director had deleted all tweets with offensive jokes. And then, he blocked his account, however, it got reactivated soon. Gunn confessed that he had been trying to maintain the image of provocator through his statements. He also declared that had changed since then.

«Guardians of the Galaxy» decided to support the director as well. Gunn’s fans signed the petition, which called for permission for the director to return to work on the film.

Открытое письмо
Signatures of the cast in the open letter in the director’s defence

It all ended where it had started: the director confirmed the news of his return in Twitter. He will film the third part of the blockbuster after the shooting of «Suicide Squad 2». It was impossible to find a replacement for him, despite all the attempts. The third part of «Guardians of the Galaxy» will be filmed by the same director who had shot the first two — James Gunn.

Джеймс Ганн с кастом «Стражей Галактики»
James Gunn with the cast of «Guardians of the Galaxy»

He foresaw his death

Football player "Cardiff City" Emiliano Sala wrote a farewell message from the aircraft

Reading time 4 minutes

The shocking news of the death of Emiliano Sal — Argentine footballer, Cardiff City striker — spread on January 22, when a private plane heading from Nantes to Cardiff disappeared from radars in the English Channel. It is noted that before the disappearance, the pilots requested an emergency landing. According to The Sun, experts in the field of aviation called the possible cause of the crash of an aircraft icing wings. Near the alleged crash site were found the wreckage of the aircraft.

Two days before the incident, Emiliano Sala signed a three-year contract with the Cardiff City team of Wales. He became the most expensive transfer in the history of the club and cost the leadership of 20 million euros. After the signing of the new agreement, the Argentine striker returned to France, where he played since 2010, to say goodbye to former teammates and friends before moving to Wales.

Before the flight, Sala sent several emotional messages to the group chat with his friends. “I am aboard a plane that looks as if it is falling apart now, I’m going to Cardiff. If in one and a half hours there will be no news from me, I don’t know if they will send someone to look for me, because they will not find it, but … you already know. Father! I am very scared,” the Clarin newspaper quotes the words of a striker. 

 

Сало с одноклубниками
Форвард приехал во Францию попрощаться со своими друзьями и одноклубниками

Famous football players, including Messi, Mbappa, Gundogan and others, together with the family of the missing person, are making their efforts to continue the search for a football player. But the chances are negligible. “I don’t think they are still alive,” the GFFN quoted the air search officer. 

Фанаты скорбят по футболисту
Футбольные фанаты возлагают цветы в память о своем кумире

On January 29, a match in the memory of Emiliano Sala between Cardiff City and London Arsenal took place as part of the 24th round. Before the meeting, the team captains laid flowers on the field. At the request of the football player’s family, the players of the Welsh team will not be mourning symbols: faith in the good does not leave the family to the last.

Nintendo Switch Online hides games

In the program’s code, dataminers found 22 unrealised games for SNES

Reading time 3 minutes

From the launching of a paid online service for Nintendo Switch, a lot of console’s fans complained about a shortage of games in a starting packet: Nintendo Switch Online still offers exclusively 8-bit NES games. However, the situation can change very soon.

Dataminor with a nickname Kapu announced his discovery in one of his Twitts. After an  investigation of the latest update of the NES app, he found 22 hidden games for another retro console – SNES. Presumably, these games will soon become a part of a new paid service for Nintendo and will be officially announced at the next video presentation of the company.

Список игр SNES, обнаруженных Kapu
A list of games that Kapu has found

Moreover, Kapu with a group of other dataminers found out that the app contains not one, but 4 emulators at once: Kacikachi, Canoe, Hiyoko and Count. At the moment, there is information about only two of them – Kacikachi and Canoe, which are used in NES Classic and SNES Classic consoles. The presence of several emulators in the program code also suggests possibility of library extension for Nintendo Switch Online, where other games from old versions of the console might appear as well.

Твит OatmealDome относительно найденных эмуляторов

Prior to this, in the interview for The Hollywood Reporter Nintendo of America President, Reggie Fils-Aime, announced that the company will keep producing NES Classic and SNES Classic consoles, which at the moment are almost the only legal tools for company’s classic games. If the rumor about the appearance of new games in Nintendo paid service’s library gets confirmed, it is likely this service will become a new platform for classic projects of the big N.

 

A video game as a piece of art

Can games ever rise in aesthetic and intellectual levels?

Reading time 8 minutes

From the ancient times people strive for expressing themselves via art, inventing more and more tools for this. Literature, fine arts, statuary, architecture, music, photography, cinema – all of these are media created in a result of technological progress and a drive for sharing new ideas.

Video games is a form of creativity as well, however, they are not construed as a real art yet. Although, a couple of examples can make people doubt in this statement.

Journey

Speaking of aesthetic qualities and audiovisual sequence of video games, we should look a little closer at Journey by thatgamecompany.

"Захватывающее и медитативное приключение" - так часто описывают Journey
An exciting and meditative adventure is a common description for Journey

Journey tells us a story about a nameless figure in a vast desert, traveling towards a mountain in the distance where he expects to find something that he needs for some reason. The game lacks any kind of speech or dialogue what creates space for  personal interpretation of the story. The game never tells anything directly, but the surrounding world gradually reveals the veil of secrecy around the place and our main character. All of these creates a unique magic atmosphere of journey where adventures await at every turn.

At the same time a meditative and exciting game Journey has conquered the hearts of most people and earned the recognition of critics.

Cuphead

Another example of a video game as an audiovisual piece of art is Cuphead by Studio MDHR Corp.

Even a promo cover sends us to the 1930s

A visual style of Max Fleischer’s animation of the 1930s, hand-drawn characters and backgrounds, and an unpretentious story about a cupheaded boy attach the feeling of an interactive cartoon to this game.

Cuphead is a synthesis of old-school creative techniques and up-to-date technologies. The game has been fully appreciated by players as well as by critics.

Stanley Parable

Not all of the games can boast a vivid and memorable visual image like previous ones. But the main distinctive feature of Stanley Parable game is its story, or, to be more precise, the absence of it.  

На мониторе больше нет указаний, и Стенли отправляется в путь
The main screen of Stanley Parable

This game can be colloquially called a walking simulator. At first sight, the game is pretty obvious: nothing interesting is happening and the character can only wander around and interact with a short amount of objects. Nevertheless, this kind of games can be very surprising when it comes to a unique way of storytelling.

Stanley Parable’s main character is clearly Stanley, an ordinary office worker who does not have anything to do but pushing the buttons on his monitor. However, one day all his colleagues disappear and the flox of commands on his screen stops.

During the course of the game, speechless Stanley is being guided by a storyteller who voices over all character’s moves and gives him hints of what to do next. The player can either listen to the invisible narrator or disobey his suggestions, on which the guide will immediately react. The game encourages the players initiative to make their own decisions, giving them a control over situations and total freedom. To be completely honest, the reality is that every single step is already planned by creators of the game, but it only means the games plays chicken with people pretty well.

This is the Adventure Line at the beginning of the game. Although, you don’t have to follow it

Stanley Parable is hardly a first experiment with an interactive form of narrative, but it is one of the most successful and highly rated ones in this peculiar genre.

Papers, Please

Even the most seemingly boring professions turn inside out in video games. For instance, the Papers, Please game tells the story of a typical border crossing immigration officer.

Even by looking at logo of the game, we can find a lot of common features

The main character is an immigration officer in the fictional dystopian country of Arstotzka. His motivation is pretty simple: the more people he checks the higher his salary is. Every day the government introduces new rules and changes the list of necessary documents for which you have to closely monitor. If you make too many mistakes during checking you will get a fine.

Very soon there is going to be too many documents that it will be impossible not to miss something

Looking through the documents, the player gradually finds out more and more about Arstotzka and the surrounding world. Although, the work at border crossing post is not that easy as it might seem at first. One character forgets his or her documents at home, or has an important operation, but does not have a necessary pass, another might have all required documents, but he is a suspect in following people he wants to kill. These and many other moral dilemmas give Papers, Please a new depth.   

What can be more lame that checking documents the whole day? But this dark, Kafkaian game immerses players into the story and does not let go until the very end.

There should be mentioned much more fascinating projects which go beyond these usual “shooters” and  “puzzles”.  But, as with any work of art, you better play these games once instead of hearing about them a hundred times.