Google’s AI Neural Networks Turn Selfies Into Emojis

Google’s AI Neural Networks Turn Selfies Into Emojis
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A new addition to their messaging app Allo uses artificial intelligence to make you into a custom sticker pack

Leo Lutero
  • 23 may 2017

With artificial intelligence seeming to be everyone’s next big project, consumers are waiting with excitement or, alternatively, fear. After all, AI’s ultimate goal is to replicate human neural networks. To tide us over, Google harnessed the technology to create emojis from selfies.

The selfie-to-sticker magic is available in Allo, a social messaging app done Alphabet-style. Despite its obvious use of Facebook Messenger as a source of inspiration, the app makes no glaring mention of the black sheep Google+ and doesn’t even call to mind the more uptight Hangouts.

When a user first fires up the Allo app, a dialog pops up to ask if you want to generate stickers. After selecting ‘yes,’ you are asked to take a selfie. A progress bar, which hides the cloud computing in action, runs and a sticker pack just for you appears.

In Google’s blog post about the feature, the developers reveal that this feature did not require them to start from scratch, writing that they decided “to run some experiments on some of Google’s existing more general-purpose computer vision neural networks. We discovered that a few neurons among the millions in these networks were good at focusing on things they weren’t explicitly trained to look at that seemed useful for creating personalized stickers.”

Original neural networks were too detailed at first. The engineers had to teach the AI to focus on features that humans easily recognize in one another. The challenge was not teaching the neural network what it should see rather, what it should ignore.

Google tapped artists, including Lamar Abrams of Steven Universe, to build the base features for the custom sticker pack. The possible outcomes are vast. The artist team was able to come up with 563 quadrillion combinations, Co.Design reports.

This writer tried the feature and got his sticker pack. When a friend was asked of the resemblance, she said, “It’s there, but not quite.” But that’s better than falling into the uncanny valley.

Allo, including this feature, is available for free from the Google Play Store.

Allo

With artificial intelligence seeming to be everyone’s next big project, consumers are waiting with excitement or, alternatively, fear. After all, AI’s ultimate goal is to replicate human neural networks. To tide us over, Google harnessed the technology to create emojis from selfies.

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+AI
+AI
+app
+emojis
+Facebook Messenger
+Google
+Google+ Hangouts
+messaging
+mobile
+Mobile
+selfies

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