Apps & Software

Facebook is developing a clone of Snapchat’s Bitmoji

Facebook Avatars are set to be the social media giant’s next significant feature — and the next big rip-off from Snapchat.

Currently, Avatars reside hidden in the code of the Facebook’s Android app. A developer named Jane Manchun Wong spotted the files in the application package where unreleased and ‘in testing’ features normally hide. Wong recently tweeted her findings, including screenshots of the Avatars feature.

Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s developing the Avatars feature but it’s relatively early in the process and there is no timeline for when public testing will start.

And like Wong tweeted, the feature looks an awful lot like Bitmoji.

Bitmoji launched by Toronto-based Bitstrips in 2008 as a comic strip creator. However, its popularity came from the personalized emoji avatar you could create with it. Snapchat acquired Bitstrips in 2016 for $64.2 million USD and integrated it into its chat features. From there, the app’s popularity skyrocketed.

It will be interesting to see what additions Facebook adds to Avatars. The company has been making strides in its VR avatars for Facebook Spaces, but its unclear what, if any, of those features will come to Avatars. Facebook Spaces uses a mix of AI and machine vision to automatically generate a lookalike. Its possible the same technology could be implemented in Avatars.

However, there’s a lot that could potentially go wrong with auto-generated avatars. Some users may find it creepy, and others might be upset if the AI gets it wrong. Building an avatar from scratch like Bitmoji may be the safer option.

This comes as part of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s push towards visual communication — something he thinks is going to be eventually replace text. An avatar is the perfect balance between impersonal emojis and actually taking a selfie and posting that as your response to something.

Source: TechCrunch