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Tired of the same selfies? Turn your face into an emoji with this new AI-powered app

memoji by facetune turns selfies into emojis 56531092  hand using phone blank screen on top view angle
Varin Rattanaburi / 123RF / Screen Images Simulated
Sure, AI can turn photos into classical paintings, but one new app is using machine learning to model selfies after modern art: Emojis.

Memoji, a new app by the developer behind the selfie editor Facetune, turns selfies (or portraits of celebrities, the Statue of Liberty, or even the Mona Lisa) into the exaggerated expressions of emojis.

Launching today in the App Store, Memoji by Facetune uses the intelligent portrait editing tools in the popular Facetune 2.0 app to instead mimic an emoji. From the big eyes and crocodile tear of the crying emoji to the wrinkled forehead and nostril steam of the angry emoji, Memoji brings the exaggerated facial expressions of emojis to actual people. The whimsical edits can then be saved as photos, GIFs, or videos to share on social media or send to friends.

Since the app uses facial feature recognition, it works with any photo of a person — or something with facial features like a statue or painting. Along with emotion-based emoji edits, the app can also turn you into a unicorn (okay, not really, but it can turn your photo into a unicorn).

“Emojis have become a part of everyday conversation and guide the way we chat and share our emotions — but the overall reach and impact of this important technology is limited,” said Nir Pochter, CMO of Lightricks, the company behind the apps. “As emoji connoisseurs, we knew that the next level of societal emojification was letting it guide the photo editing process from the very start. People want more than to just send emojis, they want to be emojis. While the world is busy applying AI to silly ventures like autonomous vehicles and data analysis, we’re taking it to where the need is greatest,” he joked.

The software uses 3D facial modeling to recognize individual facial features then distorts them into the exaggerated emotion of the chosen emoji. The emotion in the original picture doesn’t matter since the software can turn smiles into emoji frowns too — which could be an unusual perk, Lightricks CEO Zeev Farbman suggests.

“I don’t smile in pictures,” Farbman said. “So when my girlfriend showed me a picture of me smiling in a photo we took on a hike, I was dumbfounded and scared. I’d spent years cultivating an image of Spartan focus and strength, and this one photo threatened to ruin decades of consistency. Thankfully, we had already developed Memoji by Facetune and I was able to instantly click on the frowny face emoji to bring order and decency back into my life.”

Memoji probably isn’t going to really lend any Spartan strength to selfies — but the new app certainly appears to use advanced artificial intelligence technology in a whimsical break from the norm. Memoji by Facetune is available for iOS in the App Store.

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