We have developed the Puppets.World application, which allows you to animate a photo of a person, a portrait painted with paints or drawn by hand. To do this, you need to record a video (or take a finished one) with a “talking” head, select your “puppet” and click on the “puppet” button.
The application will make the “puppet” repeat all words, lip movements and facial expressions from the original video. So you can write down congratulations to your friend on his birthday on behalf of Elon Musk or post a message in Slack for colleagues with the face of the Terminator.
The technology is close to that used to create video games and films – Facial Motion Capture. This is when markers are attached to the actor’s face and facial expressions are “removed” with lasers or cameras. The technology differs from “morphing”, which is used in the widespread deepfake applications ReFace and FaceApp. There, the face of the original (for example, Beyoncé) on the video is modified so that it looks like the face of the user.
The result is not always natural, and facial expressions are preserved as in the original video. Puppets.World creates a map of the facial features and how they change in the video, then “makes” the portrait copy those changes. That is, we do not modify the face in the video, we literally animate the photo of the “puppet”.
This is what happens in the end. We took a video of a new-born TikTok star named Bella Poarch and a photo of Daenerys Targaryen. I hope the Stormborn and Burning Mother of Dragons will forgive us.
The project team is only three people, there is no budget for promotion. Therefore, we decided to publish on Product Hunt – it’s free, it allows you to quickly see the market reaction, collect valuable feedback from makers (people who create products and services).
There are two million active users who are willing to test new products – the number of downloads reaches 100 thousand per week. Not only startups and individual makers announce their developments on the site. Here they publish information about new products from Apple, Amazon, Slack, Zendesk and other “masters” of the IT world.
Do you need a hunter?
There is a common myth that self-publishing on Product Hunt is ineffective. We need a hunter – a person with the “Hunter” status in the profile and a large number of friends on the site, who finds and posts information about different products.
There are people who have made a name for themselves on this. The most famous hunter – Chris Messina even figured out how to make money on it. Anyone can set up a call with him for 30 minutes (worth $ 210) or for an hour ($ 419) to discuss the product and get tips on how to best publish on Product Hunt.
Don’t waste your money, we’ll share our tips for free.
So, is a famous hunter needed? I am convinced that this is not necessary if the product is really interesting, understandable to anyone, and all its benefits can be expressed in a short description. The site does not provide for the possibility of publishing long manuals and instructions.
You have one line below the product name and 3-4 sentences in the announcement itself. Plus, you can post a video and a few pictures (if it’s software, screenshots are usually posted).
We published ourselves on Product Hunt. Firstly, I already had experience in launching projects on the site and the status of a maker. Secondly, I didn’t want to wait one or two months in line with a famous hunter.
True, I made sure I wrote an email to Ryan Hoover, the founder of Product Hunt. Especially for this, we made a video in which we animated his photo using our Puppets.World application and “taught” him to sing. Here he is:
I found Rine’s address by just googling. I will save you 3 minutes. The address is very simple: its name is at producthunt.com
He replied that the video was funny, but he hadn’t hunted projects yet, and asked to drop the link after I publish the announcement. I did it, and in between times he put us upvote (these are “likes” on Product Hunt). By the way, voices have weight, so it is better if makers and experienced hunters are upvoted.
After the publication, I suddenly realized that we made the announcement on the same day as Apple. Such a competitor for the audience’s attention! But we ended up on the next day’s grocery list. The 24-hour cycle at the site begins at 12:01 am PST. But it added a couple of gray hairs to me – I refreshed the Product Hunt homepage every half a minute, but I didn’t see Puppets.World on the popular list, although the number of upvotes immediately crept up.
Already in the morning I discovered that we are in second place! Later, at the end of the day, we moved to fifth, we were pushed aside by the products that bought the promotional package.
Of course, we sent out a link to Product Hunt to everyone we know. I asked the guys on Mesto social network and Silicon Pravda Telegram chat to support us. But most of the voices came from strangers, which was very encouraging. We received comments even in Arabic.
Everyone advises after the publication of the product to immediately start a dialogue in the comments. It helps to raise the product in the list of popular for the day. It is standard practice for a maker to add interesting product information to the first comment. It also helps start communication. But don’t expect a heated discussion of hundreds of posts. This is extremely rare.
It is worth being responsible and friendly, without the marketing bullshit and superlative adjectives. After all, the audience on the site is people with experience in creating products and services. They also ask questions to the point and give honest but always friendly feedback.
What questions are asked?
We received a lot of questions about the Android version. We haven’t done it yet, but we realized that we urgently need to release it. There were questions about intellectual property and security (people remember the panic around FaceApp and personal data well). We, like other similar apps, adhere to the Fair Use copyright policy, which allows third-party works to be used for parodies, criticism or commenting.
Our case is rather the first. More details can be found, for example, here. As for personal data, we do not collect it at all. Even the entire video is not transferred to the cloud for processing. In most cases, the processing of short videos and the photo animation process takes place right on the user’s device. The system refers to the cloud if the user has bought PRO minutes, so the speed increases and the output will be of a higher quality, our logo will disappear.
So is Product Hunt worth using?
My answer is yes, because it is a way to test a product on live people. This will not bring millions of users, but journalists, investors, and a variety of opinion leaders are watching the site. From the very first day they started buying PRO minutes from us.
This is another confirmation that the audience is of high quality. You can publish on Product Hunt yourself, without a hunter, if you are confident in the product and have prepared clear short descriptions, understandable short videos and pictures.
Often, makers offer special “goodies” for Product Hunt members: the premium version for free, promotional codes for discounts, and more. We didn’t. I think we will try to do this when launching the Android version. There is a hypothesis that this will help increase the number of downloads.
Product Hunt is a long-running story – we still get 2-4 upvotes a day. And we “caught” a surge in downloads (and sales) when we received a separate letter in the mailing list a week after the announcement. Product Hunt regularly makes selections of products tailored for a specific purpose.
I was hoping that we would be included in the list of, say, blogging tools. But I didn’t even count on the fact that we would become a headliner in such a letter! It is read by sooo many subscribers around the world. By the way, we have users from France in second place (after the USA), which we did not expect at all. Also, if you want to see the reaction to a product from a global audience, publish an announcement on Product Hunt.
Based on materials from vc.ru. Author Svetlana Ragimova