Around two weeks ago, South Korean social app Zepeto experienced a boom in popularity among Chinese youth, with 3D animated avatars popping up across microblogging platform Weibo and social app WeChat.

Now, selfie platform Meitu has released a somewhat comparable feature in the latest upgrade to its selfie-enhancing app, MeituPic. A button labeled “Meitu AI” allows users to snap a picture of themselves to create shareable “cartoon” versions in five different styles.

One particular style uses facial recognition technology to create personalized images and short videos, similar to how Zepeto creates avatars based on users’ facial features.

Image credit: Meitu.

The Meitu function can detect when a user winks, smiles, or tilts their heads. Grimaces and other expressions don’t register, although the app’s rendering of clothes appeared reasonably accurate.

Unlike Zepeto’s social networking app, however, Meitu’s scope for sharing is limited. Users can choose to share their images to various social media platforms as well as an in-app community, but can’t create multiple-user selfies or interact via avatar.

Also, the cutesy interactive option is the least popular by far in Meitu’s new AI category, with only around 400,000 users as of Friday afternoon. The four other options’ popularity is measured in hundreds of millions, and more closely resemble Meitu’s signature style of ‘beautification.’

All options also allow images to be altered by resizing eyes or faces, fine-tuning other features, and switching between filters.

Meitu made headlines late last month when it announced a strategic partnership with Xiaomi, which is now handling the selfie app’s flagging phone business. Meitu said it would use the opportunity to focus on improving its image algorithms and technology.

The company was recently one of 100 condemned by the China Consumer Association (CCA) for alleged privacy risks associated with “excessively collecting recognizable biodata” and “[user] financial information.” The company was also accused of failing to clarify how its third-party partners would process the data.

Bailey Hu is based in China’s hardware capital, Shenzhen. Her interests include local maker culture, grassroots innovation and how tech shapes society, as well as vice versa. More by Bailey Hu

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