Artificial Intelligence for fun: A mathematical physics student uses his AI skills to make people laugh

Friday, July 16, 2021

A serious passion for physics was what drew Parshant Utam to study Mathematical Physics at the University of Waterloo. Little did he realize that the University’s entrepreneurial atmosphere would lead him to become a co-founder of viral smartphone app that is pure fun.

Parshant came to Waterloo as an international student from Pakistan, fascinated by theoretical physics. He was drawn by the presence of both the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum computing and the nearby Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

But artificial intelligence also held exhilarating opportunities. “I was seeing the startup environment heating up and people getting excited about AI,” says Parshant. “There is so much state-of-the-art research happening in AI and there is a lot to innovate.”

For Parshant, that innovation came in the form of co-founding an app called The lip-synching app is powered by artificial intelligence and lets people turn their still images into divas who are swaying, rolling their eyes, bopping to the music and belting out a favourite pop tune. “It is really funny,” Parshant says. "People get surprised whenever they watch their WOMBO and ask: ‘How am I doing this?’”

Artificial intelligence is the technology behind what is known as “deepfakes,” which has raised ethical eyebrows because of how fake videos might be used for disinformation purposes. But Wombo has focused on simply being lighthearted fun.

The app has gone viral. Wombo may sound silly, but it is a serious business. “Right now, we are at around 50 million downloads. Every single day, we are adding 500,000 downloads,” Parshant says. “We have around 2 to 2.5 million daily active users coming to the app.”

To read more about Parshant and the Wombo app, see the full story on Waterloo News.