The AR Emoji feature of the Galaxy S9 lineup can work on the Galaxy S8 or any other contemporary smartphone, as revealed by Loom.ai, the startup behind the technology powering the service. In an interview with AndroidHeadlines, Loom.ai co-founders Mahesh Ramasubramanian and Kiran Bhat revealed the main point of their solution was to make 3D avatars accessible to everyone, which meant making sure it works with ordinary hardware such as front-facing handset cameras. The collaboration with Samsung has so far been a success for the company, with AR Emoji being advertised as one of the main selling points of the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus, but it’s up to the South Korean tech giant whether it wants to introduce the feature to its other devices, according to Mr. Ramasubramanian who currently works as Loom.ai CEO.
The firm’s business model is focused on licensing, with that B2B approach also being the basis of how AR Emoji came to be. The San Francisco, California-based startup launched some demos over a year back, with Samsung eventually approaching it over a potential collaboration. While Loom.ai co-founders weren’t familiar with the details of Samsung’s marketing plans for the then-upcoming Galaxy S9 series, they weren’t surprised to see AR Emoji eventually being pitched as one of the hallmark features of the two Android flagships. “We expect 3D selfies to become the norm,” the industry veterans said, adding that AR Emoji are just the tip of the use case iceberg they can deliver. Going forward, Loom.ai is planning to implement its solution into games, e-commerce, and many other segments, with the firm’s executives noting the technology can deliver much more stylized results than how AR Emoji look, though it’s also capable of producing highly realistic results. On a stylistic scale of one to ten — with ten being the least realistic — AR Emoji is a three, according to Mr. Bhat.
Whether Samsung or other phone makers end up implementing the solution into more products remains to be seen, though from a technical standpoint, doing so should be as simple as optimizing Loom.ai’s SDK for a specific smartphone and allowing OEMs to work on their own implementation with assistance, which is how AR Emoji came to life on the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. The startup’s co-founders still aren’t prepared to announce more partnerships, with AR Emoji marking the first commercial application of their tech, though they confirmed new projects and talks about potential collaborations are already underway.
Mr. Ramasubramanian and Mr. Bhat are industry veterans with over three decades of combined experience in the visual effects and facial animation industry, with both spending years in Hollywood working for tech heavyweights such as DreamWorks and Industrial Light & Magic and contributing to blockbusters such as Shrek, Madagascar, The Avengers, and Warcraft. Mr. Bhat is also an Academy Award winner, having been awarded an Oscar for Technical Achievement last year due to his work on a facial capture technology that ended up being used in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and numerous other Hollywood hits.