SwiftKey users can now send animated animals in messages to their friends. Thanks to a new beta feature announced today by the company.
Users can appear as a panda, cat, dog, owl or 3D dinosaur. And the popular keyboard will use Microsoft‘s artificial intelligence technology to mimic head movements and facial expressions in real time.
“We wanted to give SwiftKey fans a fun way to communicate with their loved ones. Beyond pre-defined GIFs” said Deepak Paramanand, a Product Manager at the company. “We created Puppets, a group of cute and furry friends that people can control just by being themselves. Choose one of five animals, record a message of less than 30 seconds and share it. It supports sharing via the many popular communication apps supported by Android devices. It’s a fun way to stay in touch.”
Unlike other animal emoji products that use the 3D depth sensor. Puppets recognize what a person’s face is doing through the front camera thanks to thousands of volunteer images and videos.
The team used these images to train a neural network to learn to identify each expression. Thanks to the analysis of a large amount of data, the puppets can instantly recognize when a user smiles or opens their mouths. Then the animated animal imitates them. It is so precise that it can even imitate a person when it blinks.
“People want to type fast, and SwiftKey is perfect for that”. Paramanand added “They also want to express themselves in a fun and interesting way. And now SwiftKey is perfect for that, too.
Faces are 3D, moving objects. So SwiftKey recommends using Puppets in a well-lit room and it will only work on Android devices, with one person at a time.