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Tencent’s Different Dimension Me, an AI website that turns an image into anime, has been steadily rising in popularity over the past week majorly as a tool to generate new profile pictures. However, this seemingly innocent AI bot has a dark side—racial bias. Users of colour have found that it not only changes their skin tone to a lighter one, but also, in some cases, replaces them with animals.
The app was first found towards the end of November by Twitter users in South America, who noticed that the app could make any photo into an anime-style artwork. News of the application spread like wildfire on the microblogging platform, so much so that Tencent was forced to shut it down to prepare it for the influx of users. Even today, trying to use the service results in an error message stating that the “service is being upgraded”.
The application is built on Stable Diffusion, an AI model trained on various forms of art, including anime. Different Dimension Me takes any uploaded image and creates a two-dimensional version of it, replacing various parts of the subject’s clothing, background, and facial structure in an anime-inspired art style.
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Users have taken to the platform to convert their favourite memes into anime versions. Twitter has been flooded with netizens sharing these hilarious memes.
Some have even taken pop culture mainstays like the Statue of Liberty and Kanye West and run it through the app, with funny results.
However, due to the nature of the dataset that the algorithm is trained on, it frequently overfits anime-style facial features, skin colours, and accessories to the submitted image. This results in people of colour being misrepresented in the generations by the application.
One example of this is a photo uploaded by Twitter user Maddy, who gave the AI an image of the ‘Jackson 5’. The bot proceeded to turn them all into anime women, change their skin colour, and replace their afros with hats.
In other images, users found that people of colour were also transformed into animals. This error is commonly made by many facial recognition algorithms, as seen with Google Photos’ fiasco, which outrageously labelled people of colour as ‘gorillas’.
Additionally, there are some privacy concerns being raised by netizens, mainly due to the fact that the Different Dimension Me website is hosted on QQ World, a web portal owned and operated by Tencent. Tencent is partly funded by the Chinese government, and has a history of sharing data with the authorities.
The app is not available in India owing to the Indian government blocking access to all Chinese websites and applications on a nationwide basis. While it is possible to bypass this block using a VPN, the privacy concerns and biased nature of the algorithm are reasons to pass on this AI trend.