Google Allo's New Feature Can Instantly Turn Your Selfie into a Cartoon

With a wide range of messaging apps available (Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp - and the rest), companies are forever trying to set themselves apart from everyone else with exciting new features.

Emojis are widely used across all social media platforms, to add a fun and informal approach when messaging friends, adding interest and variation when chatting. Emojis then evolved to Sticker packs, popular on Facebook Messenger and Snapchat, which Snapchat took a step further bringing Bitmoji to the table, allowing you to create your own mini-me as a sticker.

The little images you can slot into messages bring expression, personalisation and an element of fun to instant messaging, and with most platforms having some kind of feature of sort available, Google have stepped forward to bring innovative technology to the game.

Lesser-known messaging app Google Allo has featured in some articles previously, and this new feature is definitely worth shouting about. I'll be honest, before coming across news of this new feature, I hadn't actually heard of Allo, but with a little research, it looks pretty cool and makes me question why it's not as high up on the app charts than counterparts WhatsApp and Messenger.

The new feature brings Allo's take on personalised stickers without the faff of making it yourself. Take a selfie, and the app does the rest with their new feature, which they call Neural Network Generated Illustrations. Google worked alongside artist Lamar Abrams to create a repertoire of cartoon hairstyles, face shapes, eyes and other features which respond to your selfie and create your very own mini-me; like Bitmoji, but automatic.

Once your selfie is turned into an avatar, you're then free to personalise or alter it to maintain the principle of freedom to users to represent themselves as they wish; whether that's true to their usual everyday-self, or an enhanced version with fun features like blue hair or fairy wings- whatever tickles your fancy.

From an article from Google's Research Blog, Allo's Expressions Creative Director Jennifer Daniel writes about the development of the new feature, and how they were careful to avoid the uncanny valley and keep cartoons still cartoon-like. She also expresses the production team's efforts to ensure the created features were widely representative of race, age and gender to be successful and good to use for everyone:

"Aesthetics are defined by race, culture, and class which can lead to creating zones of exclusion without consciously trying. As such, we strove to create a space for a range of race, age, masculinity, femininity, and/or androgyny. Our teams continue to evaluate the research results to help prevent against incorporating biases while training the system"  Daniel writes.

The feature is available now for the Android version of Allo, and will be available on iOS soon.

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