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OPINION10 January 2018

Animojis: a fun, anonymous way to have your say?

Mobile Opinion Technology UK

We’ve all talked about the potential of emojis to be a new universal language, but what of Animojis? Could they be a revolutionary way of communicating asks Zoe Dowling.

If you don’t have an iPhone X you’d be forgiven for wondering what Animojis are – so here’s a quick explanation. The new iPhone X launched with the Animoji messaging feature just a few months ago. The feature maps a user’s facial movements to an animated emoji character using the TrueDepth front-facing camera, originally designed for facial recognition. Effectively, Animojis turn static emoji symbols into 3D animations that mimic your facial expressions.

It doesn’t end with facial expressions; the user can also record their voice – allowing you to see and hear a lot in the short 10-second video clip. The audio from the consumer is filtered through a voice modulator specific to each Animoji character. This leaves us with an emotion-rich, but identity-stripped clip.

By eliminating personal and identifiable information, Animojis could help the participant feel more comfortable in front of the researcher, while still being able to put forward their views, emotions and some elements of their personality.

Participants would certainly be far less worried about messy hair, or even an untidy room. It could be particularly beneficial when trying to understand sensitive topics. We also know that many research participants are privacy conscious and therefore loath to record their faces. Animojis could offer a way for anonymised video open-ends, which would undoubtedly help with participation rates.

The technology is easy for participants to use, and it’s easy for researchers to share the outputs with stakeholders – making an entertaining, yet engaging and powerful, deliverable for researchers.

But of course, the use of Animojis in research would not be without limitations and drawbacks. At the moment, the technology wouldn’t pick up every movement to show every emotion. The participant would have to fully commit to say, raising an eyebrow, for the expression to then be translated in full to the Animoji. Plus, each character reacts slightly differently to facial detection technology. Furthermore, currently they are limited to 10 seconds long.

We’re already surrounded by emotional intelligence technology such as the latest webcams and machine learning, and other qualitative tools such as HD 360-degree cameras and video analytics.  So, could we obtain worthwhile human insight via the twelve characters that are Animojis? Can they really add value to the research industry? Time will tell.

Even if they don’t prove useful in research, there’s always the music industry. IPhone users are having a great time experimenting with Animoji Karaoke, particularly Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Take a look.

Zoe Dowling is lead research strategist at FocusVision