Fans of Bitmoji: there’s a new caricature app that you’ll want to see. It’s more aesthetically pleasing and a breeze to use, but not so simple to share.
Google has a new feature in its latest update for Google Allo, an instant messaging mobile app released last September for Android and iOS users: selfie stickers—a custom caricature created by using a photo of any given user.
The technology behind this feature (currently only available for Android users) makes for a unique experience. Google is utilizing machine learning and neural networks “to analyze the pixels of an image and algorithmically determine attribute values by looking at pixel values to measure color, shape, or texture.” Essentially, the app creates a cartoon sticker, illustrated by storyboard artist Lamar Abrams, that actually resembles what you look like.
Something similar already exists
The general concept is an awful lot like Bitmoji—a personal emoji spin-off app created by Bitstrips in 2014. But Google’s selfie sticker has a leg up on Bitmoji when it comes to being user-friendly and streamlining the emoji creation process.
Bitmoji’s cartoon avatars rely on users selecting features for themselves. This is great for personalization, as everything from wardrobe and body type to eyebrows and headgear can be customized. But it also leaves it to the user to hand-pick what they think they look like. And let’s face it—we’re often not the best judges of our own appearance. If you’re going for accuracy, Bitmojis leave a lot to be desired.
With Google’s selfie sticker, the app does all the legwork behind emoji creation for you. So if you’re distraught over which pair of eyes best represents your own, worry no more—Allo is here to capture your true self.
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How Allo’s selfie sticker works
Within the Allo app, you take a selfie and receive a cartoon within seconds. Then you can customize your face to make minor changes where the neural network may have slipped up. When all is said and done, you have 22 custom selfie stickers — and they look really good.
That’s a stark difference from the process of creating a Bitmoji, where you have to handpick every aspect of your appearance. Regardless of whether you opt for Bitmoji or Bistrips style, the final result is significantly less aesthetically pleasing than Allo’s sticker.
Here’s the issue
When you look at the quality of the personalized emoji and the process to create it, Allo is the clear winner for the consumer. But there’s one major limitation with Allo’s selfie sticker: it only works within the Allo messaging app. Bitmoji, on the other hand, can be shared through SMS text message, iMessage, Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Gmail, Messenger, Slack and other messaging platforms by installing it into your keyboard. Users can also link Bitmoji with their Snapchat account — the app boasts 166 million daily active users and is a favorite among millennials.
Allo hasn’t really taken off: it secured 10 million downloads at the end of last year, which pales in comparison to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger’s 1.2 billion monthly active users. By limiting the selfie sticker to Allo, Google is restricting its potential to the pool of users that actually use the messaging app on a regular basis. For the user, this means keys you can’t really effortlessly show off your cool new selfie sticker with anyone but fellow Allo users unless you screenshot, crop and send the sticker as a picture, or long press and share. Though, the latter requires going into the Allo app every time you want to use a selfie sticker and delivers an automated text with the personalized emoji prompting the recipient to download the messaging app.
Chances are, Google is hoping to boost Allo’s active users by offering selfie stickers but the company may be doing the feature (and the technology supporting it) an injustice by not creating a standalone app for it. Or, at the very least, it should do its users a solid and let them share the selfie stickers across various different platforms seamlessly through a keyboard app.
For the user, as it stands currently, Allo’s personal emoji is easier to make and delivers a better product, but it falls short in its shareability.
Update: This story has been updated to include how to share the selfie sticker on platforms aside from Allo and the automated text that comes with it.
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