AI photo app creates buzz in Vietnam

By Luu Quy   August 24, 2023 | 07:29 pm PT
Loopsie, the AI anime-style photo generator app, has become the most-downloaded application on the App Store Vietnam, but experts are worrying about data privacy issues.
Loopsie topped the list of most downloaded apps on the App Store Vietnam August 23, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy

Loopsie topped the list of most downloaded apps on the App Store Vietnam August 23, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy

Photos generated by the application have been widespread on social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram since mid-August.

"Creating comic-style photos has never been easier," said Duc Duy, a 25-year-old office worker in Hanoi. "There are still mistakes, for example wrong detections in photos with many complicated details, but the photos are satisfying in general."

Duy started using the app to turn his photos into anime-style pictures earlier this week and has been constantly posting them to his Facebook profile ever since.

A "senior" photo-editing applications’ user, Duy said Loopsie shares similarities in usage with the majority of current mobile apps that transform human faces in the photos into comic-style pictures. The unique thing about the app is one of its filters, named "Old School Anime," which, as its name suggests, gives photos an anime vibe.

Ngoc Anh, of Hanoi, said reading comics has been her hobby since she was a child. Seeing anime-influenced photos her friends posted on social media, she instantly downloaded the app and tried it herself. She immediately got hooked.

"Loopsie changes everything in photos added by users, including the surrounding background and not only human faces," Anh said. "That’s different from previously developed applications."

The only downside users have observed is that resulting photos cannot be edited, even when the AI behind the app automatically adds unwanted details to the photos, making the output totally different from the input. For example, some users experienced the app "inserting" clothes on images of people wearing swimsuits or hair on images of bald people.

A photo generated by Loopsie. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Anh

A photo generated by Loopsie. Photo courtesy of Ngoc Anh

Loopsie was introduced in 2018 by an Italy-based company. Initially focused on making motion pictures and videos from given photos, the app added the function that allows its users to retouch their photos, which is reportedly available on iOS only, late last year.

Nguyen Van Khanh, founder of Antory, a project that uses AI in comic creation, said applications that turn photos into drawings appeared a long time ago. Still, Loopsie is remarkable for its ability to create high-quality photos thanks to a deep learning model called Stable Diffusion, and its user-friendly interface.

"That could be the reason why people are widely interested in the app," Khanh said.

Loopsie offers several subscription plans to users that wish to keep using the app after their three-day free trial, including a weekly plan that costs VND69,000 (around $2.9) and an annual plan that costs VND1.35 million. These are considerably high prices for a "for fun" app as most people merely use it to generate anime-style photos, according to Khanh.

However, founder of AIcomic, a blockchain-based AI-powered picture and story platform in Vietnam, said the app could be especially useful for comic or short animated movie creators.

Vu Ngoc Son, technical director of the Vietnam National Cyber Security Technology Corporation, also warned about the risks of personal information leaking.

"The app uploads photos added by users to its provider's server," he said. "Thus, you shouldn’t give the app access to photos that are sensitive or too personal."

In addition to that, "giving" an external tool access to photos means users cannot have total control over photos of themselves anymore.

He suggested people thoroughly consider all perspectives before hitting the "allowing access" button.

"People should be careful in any case of exchanging their personal data, especially data about their faces, for a few ‘fun minutes’ on social media."

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