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Snapchat Cameos edit your face into videos

Josh Constine

Snapchat is preparing to launch a big new feature that uses your selfies to replace the faces of people in videos you can then share. It’s essentially a simplified way to deep-fake you into GIFs. Snapchat Cameos are an alternative to Bitmoji for quickly conveying an emotion, reaction or silly situation in Snapchat messages.

Snapchat Cameo makes you the star of videos

Some French users received a test version of the feature today, as spotted by Snap enthusiast @Mtatsis. TechCrunch reached out to Snap, which confirmed existence of Cameos and that the feature is currently testing in limited availability in some international markets. The company provided this statement: “Cameos aren’t ready to take the stage yet, but stay tuned for their global debut soon!”

[Update 12/9/19: Following TechCrunch's story, Snap announced today that it will launch "SnapchaCameos" on December 18th with a global roll out on iOS and Android. We've updated this article with some more details from Snap.]

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How to make Snapchat Cameos

With Cameo, you’ll take a selfie to teach Snapchat what you look like. Then you choose if you want a vaguely male or female body type (no purposefully androgynous option). Cameo then lives inside the Bitmoji button in the Snapchat messaging keyboard.

Snapchat has made a 150 short looping video clips with sound that you can choose from, with new ones coming each week. They can show you flaunting your cash, dancing like crazy, falling asleep and tons more. Snapchat will then stretch and move your selfie to create different facial reactions that Cameo can apply to actors’ heads in the videos.

You just pick one of these videos that now star you and send it to the chat. Users may opt to enable multi-friend Cameos to see themselves in ones with friends, browse categories of scenes and search with terms like "hey" or "lol" to find related clips. You can always retake your selfie to improve your look, or tap and hold on Cameos to save them to your camera roll for sharing elsewhere.

Cameo could help Snapchat keep messaging interesting, which is critical, as that remains its most popular and differentiated feature. With Instagram and WhatsApp having copied its Stories to great success, it must stay ahead in chat.

Though in this case, Snap could be accused of copying Chinese social app Zao, which let users more realistically deep-fake their faces into videos. Then again, JibJab popularized this kind of effect many years ago to stick your face on dancing Christmas elves. It's unclear if Snap acquired a startup to help build out Cameos. Bitmoji was an acquisition, and Snap bought Looksery to power its augmented reality lenses.

Snap is only starting to monetize the messaging wing of its app with ads inside social games. Snap might potentially sell sponsored, branded Cameo clips to advertisers, similar to how the company offers sponsored augmented reality lenses.

Cameo could put a more fun spin on technology for grafting faces into videos. Deep fakes can be used as powerful weapons of misinformation or abuse. But by offering only innocuous clips rather than statements from politicians or pornography, Snapchat could turn the tech into a comedic medium.

[Image Credit: Jeff Higgins]