April 21, 2024
Ex-MZ CEO launches BeFake, an AI-based social media app


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Alias Technologies, an AI company started by former Machine Zone CEO Kristen Garcia Dumont, has introduced BeFake, a social media app for digital self-expression. It’s built on the catch phrase, “Why be real when you can be fake?”

The app, now available on both the App Store and Google Play, offers a refreshing alternative to the conventional reality portrayed on existing social media platforms, said Kristen Garcia Dumont, CEO of Alias Technologies, in an interview with GamesBeat.

BeFake, powered by Alias Technologies’ AI tech, provides users with an engaging platform to amplify their presence on social media by unleashing their imagination. By inputting text prompts, users can transform themselves into captivating, augmented visuals, enabling them to vividly express their authenticity and explore the endless possibilities of their creativity beyond the limitations of the physical world.

“BeFake represents a revolution in how we interact with social media and the growing presence of AI in our social circles,” said Garcia Dumont. “It is more than just an app; it’s an expressive outlet that empowers new ways of connecting with friends through AI-generated visuals. We believe authenticity can shine through fantasy as much as reality.”

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In contrast to the typical posts seen on traditional social media platforms, BeFake’s AI-generated content is fresh, engaging, and thought-provoking, she said. The platform encourages a form of communication that stimulates users’ imagination, providing them with a new way to explore their identity beyond physical boundaries. Additionally, it serves as a welcoming introduction to AI prompting.

I’m gonna say this is a fake guy.

Dumont added, “I’m really passionate about breaking down the barriers of human connection, and believe we can use AI to democratize social media and reduce the stress, pressure, and vulnerability many of us feel in posting. While we believe the movement to show raw, real-life candids online was well-intentioned [like with BeReal], our thesis is quite different. People want aspirational social media and to show their best selves online, and BeFake lets users easily make any moment AI-augmented and share their creativity with friends.”

With its user-friendly interface, the BeFake app ensures a seamless and enjoyable journey from imagination to visualization. Users are invited to join the BeFake community, where they can authentically express themselves through the act of “being fake.” By letting their imagination run wild, users become an integral part of the BeFake community.

BeFake actually tries its hardest to make any moment as magical as possible, so you no longer have boring posts.

Origins

Kristen Garcia Dumont is CEO of BeFake.

Garcia Dumont previously served as the CEO of mobile gaming giant Machine Zone, maker of Game of War and Mobile Strike.

Garcia Dumont helped lead the development and launch of two of the most profitable mobile social games globally, grossing in excess of $1 billion. Her cofounder Tracy Lane is the former COO of MZ, where she led community, moderation, compliance and platform partnerships.

AppLovin bought the company for $600 million in 2020. After engineering that acquisition, Garcia Dumont started Alias Technologies about two years ago. She spent that time assembling a team of a dozen people, including a variety of AI experts, and they developed the company’s AI models. The tech takes advantage of both computer vision and generative AI.

“I dove right in because I knew I wanted to do AI, and I knew we wanted to just start on our AI models as quickly as possible,” she said. “It’s funny how generative AI is the thing now. Two years ago, no one was talking about it. You seemed a little crazy, a little fringe.”

Rather than start another game company, Garcia Dumont decided that she foresaw that AI would create not only a technological shift, but a “humanity shift.”

Her bet was that “people were going to be interacting more and more and more ‘bots.’ But in a really normal, fun and casual way. And if we could be one of the first ones introducing AI in our social context, it could be something really special because we saw the spark of that in gaming. And thought I was nuts two years ago.”

Kristen Garcia Dumont has changed since the last time we saw her.

The company got started with computer vision as the tech was more advanced, and it was necessary to generate photorealistic fake people. All the AI tech was slower then, but it has made huge strides in the past year. The idea was to use the AI to create fake versions of people that would surprise and delight them, Garcia Dumont said.

She was thinking of the day when people would have AI boyfriends and girlfriends.

“Just like we see in gaming, right, it’s perfectly normal to be interacting with a character. It doesn’t seem quite a stretch to me at all to say that maybe 50% or more of our online interactions are going to start to be with bots,” she said. “And as bots get better and better at simulating and emulating human behavior, language and emotions, they will be a very normal thing.”

Yes, Dean Takahashi climbed Mount Everest and got this sunburn. Not.

And so marrying that AI and computer vision with a social network became the plan. When Stable Diffusion started taking off last year, it sparked the idea to make it a lot more fun and easy to use. As a kind of bot, BeFake can contribute content alongside what people create themselves.

It turned out it was a challenge for AI to work with candid photos, as opposed to poring through 20 pictures of someone before it came up with something acceptable. The app needed to be easy and fast.

With the final app, you can take a candid photo and then write a text prompt to generate images based on that photo with the press of a button.

“We jokingly say it’s like from boring to banger in five seconds,” Garcia Dumont said. “The fake stuff was where we started. Now we’re starting out with a real user — it’s you. You recognize it as you take your picture, and you transform it with AI and you still know it’s you. You can push the envelope of who you are, but it is still you at the center of it.”

You can tap prompts available from BeFake, like, “Make me hot” or “put me in outerspace with planets all around.”

Generating proper prompts is kind of an art. And generating too many images can be expensive. So, the team had to focus on getting usable images one out of two times. That required a lot of work on the backend and on the models.

“With just a few words, people are getting back an image that they love and that’s really fun and exciting,” Garcia Dumont said. “The whole point is that this is an antidote to BeReal. Being authentic is extremely stressful. It’s high pressure and it becomes not that fun. That makes social way too hard.”

Running the company

The guy on right is what you get when you apply BeFake to the guy on the left.

Garcia Dumont said the company is completely remote. She said she has enjoyed it more so than the previous gaming work in one respect. She believes there is more respect for talent than there was in gaming, where it was “exhausting” having to prove to others that one was competent. The work resembles gaming in one respect. A world of AI bots is a lot like the non-player characters in games, where players are accustomed to the idea of playing among bots.

On the social front, Garcia Dumont wants to turn more people who are current consumers of content into creators of content, mainly by making complex technologies more accessible. For now, the company focuses on generating fun still images, but eventually it could move to video.

The company has raised a seed funding round from Khosla Ventures, Next Coast Ventures and Joe Lonsdale. Over time, the company’s challenge will be in getting access to the kind of computing power it needs for AI processing. And so, like any company, BeFake has to get the balance right when it comes to giving users the power of generative AI for free and charging them for the compute they use.

For those who become power users of BeFake, the company will charge a subscription fee and consumers can buy credits to generate more images. But those who aren’t as diehard can generate images for free.

Learning from gaming

You can give your friends mouse ears in BeFake.

One of the things she brought from gaming? She said, “A strong belief that people can forge very deep and meaningful connections with people that they don’t even know. It doesn’t need to start with your friend base or your contact list or your school. You can actually build a network of people who bond around a shared interest. And so, for gaming, for mobile gaming, the shared interest is in games. For a social network, the shared interests can be the fun of generating really clever and creative AI masterpieces. You can just marvel at what somebody else was able to create.”

Another thing that Machine Zone taught her is that the people who succeed are the ones who never give up.

“You cannot stop. It doesn’t matter how many times you get punched in the face,” she said. “You just get back up and get ready to get punched again. If you want to be an app developer, you better have a thick skin. You better be ready to fight. And you just need to have an unbelievable will to succeed because it’s extremely competitive.”

Machine Zone was also where Garcia Dumont learned about the importance of machine learning, which helps with everything from monetization to building out content. And she said, “There’s an artistry to this. It’s just ones and zeros. It’s not just huge compute. There is an absolute art” to human communication.

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