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Design

New Mobile App Lets You Create And Send Custom Digital Avatars

Today, Intel unveiled "Pocket Avatars," a video-messaging app that includes 40+ avatars that can mimic your facial gestures.
June 19, 2014, 6:00pm

While it once took hundreds of animators months of intense and detailed tinkering to create a simple cartoon short, today the craft can be achieved in just a matter of moments—and we're not talking about making simple GIFs. This morning, Intel unveiled new software called Pocket Avatars that captures the magic of animation and channels it into a mobile messaging app with an extremely entertaining twist: using your phone's camera and mic, Pocket Avatars allows users to send 3D-video animations of avatars that speak with your voice. In other words, this is instantaneous, personalized animation messaging.

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After you put your face in front of the phone's camera, simply hit the record button and the tech will begin capturing your face's specific idiosyncracies and mimic them. Eyebrow movements, blinks, winks, and scrunched up smiles are all replicated through facial gesture software developed after years of research at Intel Labs.Then, users can add a voice message into the mix and the app has everything it needs to morph you into the titular pocket avatar of your choosing. There are more than 40 characters (with more to come), and this digitized you can be sent to anyone else with the app, and also be shared through email and social media.

Though it may first seem like a bit of a novelty, it's really easy to get obsessed with it. Watching your face manipulate various avatars—from an average fish, to the Annoying Orange, to President Obama—is surreal. “The algorithms behind the facial tracking technology are so good it’s scary,” Mikel Bell, the general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group told The Creators Project. The eerily-accurate facial mimicry almost feels like a 15-second howler, sent with innovative software instead of Harry Potter magic.

While messaging your friends as a cute cat or a red devil can be fun, the coolest thing about Pocket Avatars is it’s potential for storytelling. The text-to-animation short films produced through the Xtranormal animation site have been going viral for years, but now the tech has been integrated in a mobile app with next-to-no learning curve. The mind reels at the types of inside jokes and storytelling that can be exchanged with this app. We can only hope that stand-ups and Internet celebs take notice.

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You can download the app for free here. Let the animation insanity begin.

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