TikTok’s “AI Expand” Feature: Filling in the Blanks with Artificial Intelligence

A new AI photo expanding trend is taking TikTok by storm, allowing users to seamlessly expand their images beyond the original frame. The recently released “AI Expand” filter taps into the power of artificial intelligence to zoom out from photos and generate additional background and scenery that blends with the original.

This new capability has captured the imagination of TikTok’s predominantly Gen Z user base, who are both awestruck and unsettled by the technology’s uncanny ability to alter reality.

How the Trend Got Started

The launch of TikTok’s AI Expand filter comes on the heels of Adobe’s release of a similar AI-powered tool in Photoshop earlier this year. Adobe’s tool uses generative adversarial networks (GANs) to fill in empty space beyond the bounds of an image in a realistic-looking way. TikTok’s iteration offers users an easy way to experiment with this technology through a straightforward filter built into a complementary app.

To access the filter, users must first download CapCut, a video editing app created by TikTok’s parent company. Then, by navigating to any TikTok video demonstrating the AI expand trend, they can click “Use template in CapCut” above the username. After allowing CapCut access to photos, users can choose up to six images to expand using the filter.

Stunning and Surreal Results

When it works well, TikTok’s AI expand filter seamlessly grows a photo’s dimensions while maintaining a cohesive scene. However, the results aren’t always perfect, occasionally erring into surreal or eerie territory according to some users.

TikTok creator Graeme Sutherland recently demonstrated this in a video showing the filter randomly generating a mysterious child next to his mother where none existed in the original image. “Whose child is that beside my mom?” he asks, highlighting the unsettling capabilities of AI photo manipulation apps.

While glitches like this are more exceptions than the norm, they underscore both the promises and perils of continuing advancements in AI-powered creative tools.

Implications Beyond TikTok

The viral spread of TikTok’s AI expand filter speaks to our cultural fascination with media synthesis powered by artificial intelligence. What was once limited to big-budget Hollywood productions is now available to everyday smartphone users thanks to apps like TikTok.

And this technology is progressing rapidly. What begins as a novelty on social media today could become commonplace in how we consume and trust photographs and videos tomorrow.

Some welcome the creative possibilities this enables, while others worry about its potential to undermine truth and feed misinformation. Whichever camp one falls into, the steady mainstreaming of AI photo and video manipulation cannot be ignored.

TikTok’s filter also continues the trend of major platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram racing to put machine learning-powered editing tools directly into users’ hands. As these capabilities improve over time, we’re likely to see even more mind-bending filters that blur the line between reality and fantasy.

The Bottom Line

While the jury is still out on the broader implications of AI-synthesized media, TikTok’s new photo expansion filter offers a glimpse into the future. It highlights how artificial intelligence is unlocking new creative abilities for average users while also raising tricky questions around trust and integrity in the digital world.

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