If you are using social media regularly, chances are you’ve come across some artistic renditions of other users over the past few days. That’s thanks to the latest viral sensation Lensa AI, a photo-editing app using artificial intelligence to create what it calls “magic avatars”. Having been fed 10 to 20 photos of any person, the app uses the open-source Stable Diffusion model to create realistic avatars of that person that look like they were made by an artist.
Over the past weeks, the app shot up the rankings on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, becoming the most-downloaded “free” app in many countries by December 7. Why “free”? Because there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, and sure enough users eventually have to pay at least $3.99 for their own “magic avatars”. There are some impressive results floating around though, which is why users are excused for being tempted into paying the fee to find out what their digital counterparts look like. And many do, apparently.
According to app analytics firm SensorTower, Lensa AI is also quickly climbing the “Top Grossing” app ranking on the App Store, meaning it is creating more revenue through app sales or (in this case) in-app purchases than almost any other app at the moment. As the following chart shows, it took Lensa less than a week to climb from rank 161 to 1 in the United States, while following similar, albeit slightly delayed trajectories in other countries.
No viral app comes without its fair share of controversies these days, however, and Lensa is no exception. From privacy concerns, potential abuse to create nonconsensual erotic images to claims that the app is stealing artists’ work to train its AI engine – Lensa’s rise to prominence has not come without complications.