Auto-create your animated avatar in Google Allo

Think next-gen Bitmoji. Check it:

Today, Google is introducing a feature in Allo that uses a combination of neural networks and the work of artists to turn your selfie into a personalized sticker pack. Simply snap a selfie, and it’ll return an automatically generated illustrated version of you, on the fly, with customization options to help you personalize the stickers even further.

If you’re interested in the machine-learning technology that makes all this possible, check out lots of detail from the Google Research team.

 

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Quality, quantity, and how Instagram is evolving

Take a human desire,” says Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, “preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”

It’s interesting to think about this as Instagram’s identity has evolved in a “lol nothing matters” Snapchat world. (I initially typed “Snapshat”; Freudian?). Founder Kevin Systrom used to like to describe the product as “a visual walkie talkie,” but plainly that wasn’t true. As their head of product Kevin Weil said, “It became a place where people kept raising the bar on themselves in terms of the quality of what they had to achieve to post. We didn’t want that.” If you haven’t yet, listen to the This American Life episode about teenage girls’ Instagram anxiety referenced in “The Instagram lobster trap.”

Anyway, Instagram has found that lowering the bar—creating an impermanent, low-stress complement to one’s highlight reel—is key. They need bottom-up activity to make things work:

“Your connections with your friends and your family are the thing that make Instagram work. All the data supports that if you follow more friends and engage with your friends, your activity goes through the roof. If you just follow more celebrity content or more interest-based content, that doesn’t move the needle at all.” – Kevin Systrom, Instagram co-founder

You should read Benedict Evans’s observations (starts dry, but solid) about all this. Among them:

There are millions of people who will post beautiful pictures of coffee or 1960s office blocks, or like a photo by a celebrity, but there are billions who’ll share a snapshot of their lunch, beer, dog or child. Instagram is moving to capture that in the same way Messenger and WhatsApp captured chat.

Seriously, it’s worth the read.

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Come make a Mother’s Day movie with Google Photos

PM Tim Novikoff writes,

Starting today, people can go to photos.google.com/mothersday, pick a mom and kids, and then Google Photos does the rest. It automatically chooses the best photos of the mother and children, and sets it all to music to make a personalized movie. If you want to remove any of the photos or add others, you can make adjustments on Android or iOS.

Here’s the one I made for my mom featuring her grandsons:

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[YouTube]

A high-speed preview of the imaging hotness due at SIGGRAPH 2017

Days of miracles and wonder—always. (Editing audio just like a text doc is particularly spooky, especially in light of voice simulation on demand.)

The SIGGRAPH Technical Papers program is the premier international forum for disseminating new scholarly work in computer graphics and interactive techniques. SIGGRAPH 2017 brings together thousands of computer graphics professionals, 30 July – 3 August 2017 in Los Angeles, California, USA.

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[YouTube]

What happens when a VFX guy sells his car

In a word, genius:

To sell his ’96 Suzuki Vitara, and spoof the absurdity of car commercials, Eugene Romanovsky put together an epic video showcasing the heroic powers of his clunky 20-year-old car. This car has been everywhere. There are cameos from Jurassic Park, Mad Max: Fury Road, and even a scene on the moon. This is perhaps the most convincing ad we’ve ever seen–just try to watch it and not come away feeling that this is the car for you. [Via]

Tangentially reminds me of when my friend (and compositing hoss) Dave Werner got a hold of our son Finn’s “Dancing Robot” preschool dance moves:

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[YouTube]