Billion Users and Counting - How China's TikTok is Taking Over the World With Artificial Intelligence

TikTok is the creation of Chinese startup ByteDance, which was recently valued at $75 billion and may soon be the highest valued startup in the world surpassing Uber. The core concept of the app is to share short lip-sync and comedy videos, but it has become so big that it is now creating popular 'TikTokers' much like YouTube's 'YouTubers' who are making a living from the app. The popularity of the app soared after ByteDance acquired, a similar app, for $1 billion. In addition to this are the trendy 'challenges' that users do such as dancing to Lil Nas X's hit single 'Old Town Road' or a more recent trend being Captain Sparklez' popular Minecraft parody 'Revenge' (#awwmancreeper). These challenges skyrocket an artist's reach and give artists a huge audience especially considering that the app has passed one billion downloads worldwide.

Old Town Road Dance Challenge (Source: Tik Tok Go)

One key reason for TikTok's success is its artificial intelligence algorithm. When you open the app, you are greeted by its 'For You' page, which is where you can watch an endless selection of TikToks carefully tailored to your interests. If you watch, like or save a lot of TikToks relating to a topic, such as anime or magic, then you will start seeing more and more TikToks about it. This is why the app, and many other social media apps, can be addicting as you are fed short videos that interest you. Proof that the AI is doing its job right can be seen by the app's average daily viewing time which is between 54 and 65 minutes.

Another area that artificial intelligence and machine learning is used is through the app's various filters. Made popular from social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram, filters are real-time visual effects that can give a person glasses or a halo. TikTok has released more advanced filters such as one where a user can stop virtual rain in the air and then let it fall using hand gestures. The complicated machine learning algorithms, primarily for image recognition, needed to be able to detect when someone moved their body part.

Stopping rain in mid-air (Source: Tik Tok Japan)

ByteDance is also looking into ways that AI can be used to generate music in an effort to avoid using licensed songs, as they need to negotiate with artists and record labels to use their songs on the app much like Spotify needs to. The startup has also recently acquired JukeDeck, which allows for music to easily sync to a video rather than users needing to sync their videos to the music.

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