Exclusive: How Samsung Galaxy S9's AR Emoji Came To Be

The AR Emoji feature of the Galaxy S9 lineup was created as part of a collaborative effort involving Samsung and San Francisco, California-based startup Loom.ai, with the South Korean phone maker being the one who made the first move, Loom.ai co-founders Mahesh Ramasubramanian and Kiran Bhat revealed in an interview with AndroidHeadlines. Originally founded in 2016, Loom.ai only made its existence more widely know last year when the firm launched a website and some tech demos meant to showcase the capabilities of its technology designed for creating a broad range of 3D avatars based on images of people's faces. The concepts caught the attention of the Seoul-based tech giant who expressed interest in applying the solution to its upcoming offerings, having made that move even before the Galaxy S8 lineup was unveiled in spring of 2017.

"We quickly realized we can pull off AR Emoji," said Mr. Ramasubramanian while recalling the early days of the company's collaboration with Samsung. The startup ended up optimizing its SDK for the Galaxy S9, allowing Samsung to implement the functionality on a native level and turn it into an integral part of the camera experience delivered by its latest Android flagships. The Hollywood veterans who founded Loom.ai after spending years in the movie industry working on blockbusters such as Shrek, Madagascar, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story say they weren't aware of the specifics of Samsung's marketing plans for the Galaxy S9 family but have expected AR Emoji to be advertised as one of the selling points of the two devices from day one, which is what ended up happening. "This personalization [offered by 3D avatars] is going to be the core experience of many things," according to Mr. Ramasubramanian who's presently serving as Loom.ai CEO. The entrepreneurs revealed they're already collaborating with other companies on bringing their technology to consumers, noting that phone makers aren't the only partners they currently have.

According to recent reports, Samsung is planning on equipping next year's Galaxy S10 lineup with a 3D camera similar to the one found inside Apple's iPhone X, with the firm supposedly identifying a technology that would allow it to do so without delivering a device with a display notch. While Loom.ai wasn't prepared to comment on the possibility of extending its partnership with Samsung to more smartphones, the startup's co-founders confirmed their technology can already leverage such specialized hardware and deliver an even more accurate platform if paired with 3D cameras. On a fundamental level, the solution is still meant to be maximally accessible, having been designed to function even with conventional mobile cameras such as the ones boasted by the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. Due to that state of affairs, AR Emoji could also work on the Galaxy S8 lineup or any other contemporary device from the company but it's up to Samsung to decide whether it wants to introduce the feature to more of its models, Mr. Ramasubramanian said.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Head Editor
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016 and is the Head Editor of the site today. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]