Facebook wants to generate custom avatars, emojis from your photos

A future Facebook update could instantly create emojis and avatars that look just like you. In a recent paper, researchers from Facebook and Tel Aviv University developed a program that can use a photograph to create custom avatars without manually choosing factors like skin color and haircuts.

The computer vision program starts with an image and then identifies both the characteristic features of the image and the available tools to mimic that look — that approach is important because the system is not just for creating an avatar for Facebook games. Because the program compares features to available options, the system could theoretically work on multiple platforms to create custom emojis, Bitmojis, and avatars across a number of different gaming systems, like a Mii on the Wii.

Facebook custom avatars
This sample from the research paper shows the potential of Facebook’s custom avatar program. Facebook Research / Tel Aviv University

The software compares the photograph with an avatar created from the available customization features, making changes until the two are as close as possible. Results will vary based on what avatar options the post has, for example, 3D avatars, the paper says, tended to be less accurate without more detailed choices like options for facial hair available.

While the software has a number of potential uses, with researchers from Facebook the tool would most likely appear there first. Integration of the tool would mean the program could automatically choose the skin color inside of emojis. Because the program uses pictures and not user input, the software also has the potential for automatic updates when you upload a new profile picture with, say, a new pair of glasses. Facebook’s focus on augmented reality and the researcher’s attempt to use the program for 3D avatars could mean possible Facebook Camera features too.

The paper is the second to come from both Facebook Research and Tel Aviv University this month, though with different researchers involved in each project. The two groups also recently published the results of a study that turns still photos into animations by mapping out facial expressions. For example, the software could potentially make that selfie smile when a friend hits the like button.

The recent research efforts suggest computer vision could play a big role in new features brought to the platform. Just how soon — or even if — we’ll see animated selfies and custom avatars on Facebook isn’t clear, but the papers offer insight into where the company is focusing its research efforts.

Product Review

Meet Z6, the breakout star in Nikon's new mirrorless lineup

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Smart Home

Facebook Portal and Portal+ video-calling devices gain new content and features

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.

The Galaxy S10 may be announced before MWC, sell for up to $1,750

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Social Media

Instagram could be making a special type of account for influencers

Instagram influencers fall somewhere between a business profile and a typical Instagram, so the company is working on developing a type of account just for creators. The new account type would give creators more access to analytical data.

Is your PC slow? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings

Computers rarely work as well after they accumulate files and misconfigure settings. Thankfully, with this guide, you'll be able to restore your PC to its original state by learning how to factory reset Windows.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.

Photographers can now customize the layout of Lightroom Classic controls

Tired of scrolling past Lightroom tools that you don't use? Adobe Lightroom Classic now allows users to reorganize the Develop panel. The update comes along with new sharing options in Lightroom CC, and updates to the mobile Lightroom app.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…

Best Products of 2018

Our reception desk has so many brown boxes stacked up, it looks like a loading dock. We’re on a first-name basis with the UPS guy. We get new dishwashers more frequently than most people get new shoes. What we’re trying to say is: We…

These are the best action cameras money can buy

Action cameras are great tools for capturing videos of your everyday activities, whether it's a birthday party or the steepest slope you've ever descended on your snowboard. These are the best money can buy.

Canon holiday sale features the Rebel T6 2-lens kit for just $449

If you have a budding photographer in your life in need of a real camera, the Canon EOS Rebel T6 could make the perfect gift. Canon is currently offering the camera in a two-lens bundle for just $449 through December 29.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.

Leave the laptop at home, the iPad Pro is the travel buddy to take on vacay

The iPad Pro is a powerful tablet that's perfect for creatives and professionals. How does it fare when traveling with it as a laptop replacement? We took it on a two week trek in Japan to find out.