Childish Gambino Hits Pixel Playground For #PixelDanceOff

Childish Gambino Playground

If you’ve got any generation of Pixel or Pixel XL, you can not only share the dance floor with a digital Donald Glover in the augmented reality Pixel Playground, but also compete against other Pixel owners around the world in the #pixeldanceoff.

Gambino is here, Pixel owners, and he’s packing many of the same dance moves as his real-life counterpart. He’ll not only respond to stimuli in the real world, such as seeing you smile or frown in selfie mode, but will also dance to three famous Childish Gambino songs: Redbone, This Is America, and Summertime Magic.

Background: Pixel’s ARCore-driven Playground mode allows for some advanced AR tricks, and Google pulled out every trick in the book to make the Donald Glover Playmoji look and act more realistic. It can use motion tracking and light estimation, for instance, to figure out what surfaces are around it, where people are, and more, and react accordingly.


Google also worked closely with Childish Gambino’s choreography team to animate the Playmoji. Its slick moves are no match for the real deal, of course, but as seen in the attached video, they’re more than serviceable. Because of that, you can compare your moves to his, sync-dance, and have all kinds of other fun in whatever situation you may find yourself.

Playground and Playmoji are expansions of the AR stickers that originated in Gboard, using Google’s ARCore technology to bring those stickers to life in bigger, better ways. Naturally, the two perks also depend on specific bits and bobs in the camera app on Google’s Pixel devices, which means that this feature isn’t officially supported with other camera apps on Pixel devices, or on other ARCore-compatible devices.

While there are unofficial versions of the Google Camera out there that aim to bring Pixel camera features to other devices, it’s not hard to imagine that the technical wizardry behind Playground and Playmoji is difficult to recreate. Ergo, don’t expect to dance along to Gambino on your Moto Z3, Samsung Galaxy S9, or other ARCore-enabled, non-Pixel device any time soon, if ever.


Impact: Playmoji has always been a fun little toy that didn’t do a ton, and simply used ARCore to help figure out where in the real world the Playmoji should be placed. Childish Gambino’s Playmoji is the most advanced one yet, and boasts a number of reactive and spacial functions that aren’t present in other Playmoji. In short, it’s a technical showcase for ARCore.

While ARCore has a ton of potential use cases, one of the most immediately and easily impressive to the public, and thus to shareholders and analysts, is Playmoji. This is a fully consumer-facing showcase for ARCore that’s easy for anybody with a compatible device to use, which will almost certainly help to inspire public confidence.

A fully-animated, human-sized Playmoji, especially one as well-animated as this one, is a big step for Playmoji and even for ARCore in general. The kind of spatial mapping and environmental awareness it takes to make all the features of this Childish Gambino Playmoji work properly are nothing to sneeze at, and it’s quite likely that the team is aiming at bigger and better things in the near future.