Startup Looksery aims to beautify your selfie videos

The company, still in stealth mode, is working on a smartphone app to make you look better or to add entertaining effects in real time, CNET has learned.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
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A person with and without Looksery's thin-face filter.
A person with and without Looksery's thin-face filter. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

A startup called Looksery is hoping to cash in on people's desires to look more attractive or more entertaining in smartphone video communications, CNET has learned.

The company has developed software that figures out the location of features such as eyebrows, chins, pupils, and noses. The software can then alter a video to clear away pimples, make a face skinnier, add special effects like a fang-filled monster mouth, or change a person's facial appearance altogether into an avatar such as an anime teddy bear. It all happens in real time so you can see the effect applied as the video plays.

The company declined to comment for this story. But details of what the company plans are apparent on a recently updated website and a Looksery demo video on YouTube.

And Looksery plans to offer an iPhone app beta soon, a source familiar with the company's plans said. It'll let people pick effects, record videos, then send them to contacts or post them online. Later, the company hopes to expand to Android and offer ways to plug into other video communication tools such as Skype.

Looksery's scary-face filter
Looksery's scary-face filter screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Seeing what you'd look like with fluorescent green eyes or a sharklike maw is good fun. But beautifying or otherwise altering yourself in a video lays wide open an existing can of worms: can digital imagery really be trusted? How much alteration is appropriate for an online dating profile photo or video or a remote job interview?

The company has offices in Ukraine and Silicon Valley, and CEO Victor Shaburov already has one success under his belt -- the app store company Handster that browser maker Opera Software bought in 2011 and that now serves more than 100 million users monthly.

The Looksery app will be free, but the company is expected to charge $1 or $2 for effects that can be added to the software.

The company has several programmers employees on staff and plans to raise more money through the Kickstarter crowdfunding site, the source said.

Looksery identifies and tracks facial features.
Looksery identifies and tracks facial features. screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET