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This article was published on October 31, 2017

Mug Life turns photo portraits into ghoulish animations

Mug Life turns photo portraits into ghoulish animations
Matthew Hughes
Story by

Matthew Hughes

Former TNW Reporter

Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twi Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twitter.

Mug Life is really bloody silly. Like, it’s the silliest app I’ve ever come across, and I say that with several years under my belt as a tech journalist. In a nutshell, it lets you upload photos, which it then turns into taunting, nightmarish animated videos, sort of like this:

The range of pre-installed effects on offer are pretty limited, and you can cycle through them pretty quickly. That’s not to say I got bored though, because frankly, who can get bored of embarrassing your co-workers by making it seem like they’re passing wind? (Sorry Már)

Of course, it’s not perfect. I found that photos where the subject is at an angle didn’t really convert well. I stole a photo from the Facebook profile of Alejandro Tauber, TNW’s Editor in Chief, where Alejandro had his head cocked to one side. The end result made the otherwise-dashing head of this publication look like he’d escaped from a prison somewhere in rural Louisiana. Literally, what the fuck happened to his teeth?

I digress: the coolest part of Mug Life is the fact that you can create your own custom videos. I started off by making it seem like my colleague and punching-bag, Már, was aping alt-right sentiment. When he said he’d file a grievance with HR if I used that video (sorry Már) in my article, I instead channelled my energy into making it seem as though Tim Cook was saying the iPhone X was “shit and overpriced.”

First up, you might be prompted to align the app with the subject’s face. Amusingly, this made Tim Cook look a bit like a cyber-version of Dame Edna Everage.

Then, it’s just a matter of pressing the right buttons. You can adjust all points of the subject’s face — even make them mimic certain emoji. However, if you just want to make it seem like the person’s talking, you’ve just gotta tap the subject’s bottom lip, and the app does the rest.

It’s not perfectly accurate, and the mouth’s movement doesn’t really match the text, making everything look like a subtitled foreign language film. It’s also worth noting that the further the subject from the camera, the smaller the movement will be. If you use a photo where the subject is right-and center, you can get much more pronounced effects, like this video of Tim Cook talking scornfully about Apple’s least favorite thing: taxes.

Overall though, Mug Life is good enough for a novelty app, which it unashamedly is.

I’ve no doubt that Mug Life will become a success. It follows a long line of appearance-changing novelty apps — like those that make you look older, or give you male-pattern baldness, or Prisma (remember Prisma?). What makes Mug Life special is that despite being obscenely juvenile, it’s really powerful. It’s crazy that, in a few seconds, I can turn a photo into a video that depicts my co-workers unleashing a massive, earth-shattering fart (again, sorry about that Már). And it all happens on my phone, which is the wildest part of this equation.

Mug Life launched last week. Quite quickly, it’s gained recognition for being a fun little distraction, with Apple including it in its “New Apps We Love” collection. If you’re curious, you can check it out here.