By Shriya Roy
The word ’emoji’ is familiar to all of us. Be it joy, sadness, love or humour, each time we want to express ourselves on social media, emojis come to our aid swiftly. But what if you could express those same emotions not with a yellow smiley, but your own face? Yes, welcome to the world of memojis, face stickers and avatars.
Memojis were first introduced in the market by Apple as part of its messaging app iMessage. In 2017, Apple added a feature called ‘Animoji’ that used Apple’s Face ID camera system to map popular emoji characters to the user’s face, so that they appear to mimic the user’s facial expressions. Apple expanded this feature a year later in 2018 and introduced ‘Memoji’. This new feature allowed users to create an avatar that not only tracked their facial movements, but also looked like them.
Memojis are basically personalised emojis. The best part about a Memoji is that it can look exactly like the person creating and using it, and offers a variety of customisations, starting from hair, eyes, hats, dresses and so on. Another player that emerged in the memoji market after Apple was Snapchat. Its Bitmoji allows users to customise the character to create incredibly realistic depictions of themselves without losing any of the appeal of the emoji. Although Bitmoji is currently owned by Snapchat, it was originally developed by the company Bitstrips from Toronto, Canada. Bitstrips was focused on creating digital comic strips that featured personalised avatars. Once emojis became popular, the company created a separate app called Bitmoji in 2014 designed to specialise in emojis. Over the years, Snapchat’s bitmojis moved from flat two-dimensional characters to three-dimensional animated ones.
While emojis are fun, memojis and bitmojis add a personal touch to them. Taking a cue from Apple and Snapchat, Facebook also recently rolled out its new feature called Facebook avatar, a digital recreation of a user rendered using image-processing software and the smartphone camera with depth sensors. These avatars can be used in Facebook or Messenger and can be created using the ‘Make Your Avatar’ option.
The avatars can be posted as comments in chats and also on Facebook gaming profiles. The social media site also confirmed that text posts will soon be able to support these avatars. A cartoon-like version of a user, Facebook avatar can be made choosing from a variety of faces, hairstyles and outfits that have been specially customised. With much of social interaction these days happening online, the avatar gives users a more personal way to express themselves on social media.
Samsung also has its own range of memojis called AR Emoji, which creates an animated digital version of a user’s face. Once created, the user can record facial expressions and watch them animate the character on screen. Its specialty is that whatever face the user chooses will be fully animated and will copy all of the expressions and movements in real time. The front camera takes a picture of the face. Using numerous data points, it automatically detects where the key parts are. It then analyses the image and creates a digital version, which appears on the screen. The final image can be customised by the user. One can also choose from a selection of stickers and GIFs, which can be used as reactions.
Apart from these big players, there are several apps on Play Store that can be used to create one’s own memoji. Gboard, also known as Google Keyboard, has a feature called Emoji Minis. With this, users can scan their face and get a bunch of stickers in different styles and poses.
Another app that does the same is Face Cam. It does not scan the face, as the name suggests. Instead, the user can build it from scratch using different categories. They can select their hair, eye shape and other characteristics. Once created, the app starts to function as a camera. But instead of seeing one’s actual face, users see a giant emoji version of it, which moves as the face does in real time.
MojiPop is yet another app that turns the face into a handdrawn-style cartoon and then applies it to a collection of scenes and stickers. What if you were sitting on top of a planet or dancing or maybe inside a painting? MojiPop makes it a reality.
In times of social distancing, one can be socially creative with these digital version of themselves. These memojis and avatars help users put a lookalike version of themselves on the internet to express themselves and amuse friends.