In quarantine, we must become our own waifus.
Selfie 2 Waifu is an online image style transfer tool that turns your selfies into, well, waifus. (In case you don't know, waifus, in otaku culture, are essentially anime crushes or "wives.") It's based on a paper published in 2019, "Unsupervised Generative Attentional Networks with Adaptive Layer-Instance Normalization for Image-to-Image Translation" by a team of researchers from South Korea’s Clova AI Research, gaming company NCSOFT, and the Boeing Korea Engineering and Technology Center.
Motherboard wrote about the project in August, but now the image generator is making the rounds again, available as an easily-accessible browser-based tool.
There are two sites using this model in the wild: One is credited to a Japan-based programmer who goes by Creke (who is not affiliated with the researchers, but would like to thank them for their "beautiful algorithm," they told Motherboard), and the other is copyrighted by programmers Rico Beti and Nathan Glover. The former does the image generation in-browser, while the latter requires your email address. Neither have privacy policies, and some people reported issues with aggressive ad spam, so waifu yourself at your own risk.
It seems to work better for women than men, probably based on the training dataset, which is, as you might guess, primarily comprised of over 7,000 anime women.
It works pretty well. You can get a slightly different result by uploading the same photo again; when I uploaded my passport photo twice, I got two different (but both still pretty accurate) results.
Anime is a popular training ground for machine learning programmers. Deepcreampy uses a similar AI generative system to de-censor hentai, and This Waifu Does Not Exist has been generating brand new anime women for almost a year.
There's probably something more psychoanalytical to be said about how the extreme social isolation many of us are experiencing right now has driven us to seeing ourselves made into cute, cartoony versions of ourselves: anime characters, or slightly more fashionable anime babes, or tiny, soft mini-mes in idyllic versions of our own rooms. Still thinking on it. Until I figure it out, enjoy the waifus.