Add Facebook Live to the list of places where artificial intelligence is changing things. Today users get the ability to apply, in real time, eight AI-driven image filters that give their live streams the look of paintings or cartoons. The feature isn’t coming from Facebook—at least not yet—but from a five-month-old Russian startup called Prisma. An update to its mobile app will allow owners of the iPhone 6s and 7 (including the Plus versions) to stream the filter-altered videos on Facebook Live. (It wasn’t yet live at the time of writing.) As for Android users, Prisma says it’s “doing our best to make the Android version better.” The reason for the limited support isn’t trivial. Prisma applies effects by running neural networks directly on smartphones, a growing trend in AI; and that requires a lot of processing power.
Prisma’s announcement today is a bit of a gauntlet throw-down to Facebook. On October 25, the social network demoed its own art filters for Facebook Live (though they are not available yet). They look similar to Prisma’s effects for prerecorded video, launched on October 6; and Prisma introduced art filters for still photos when it debuted in June. The day after Facebook’s demo, Prisma creator Alexey Moiseenkov hosted a Q&A on Facebook Live using some of the filters—which provide simple, sometimes creepy, cartoon effects. It’s all reminiscent of Meerkat and Periscope—the dueling live-streaming apps that became available on Twitter in March 2015. Periscope, owned by Twitter, formally won the battle when Meerkat shut down on September 30.