Apple

Animoji Karaoke — The Fad We Didn’t Know We Needed

Apple’s iPhone X is officially on the market, and there are a number of elements the reviews have focused on — the camera, the new gestures that have replaced the home button, the fancy OLED screen (that may have a blue tinting problem) and the marvels of Face ID.

But let’s be honest. While all of those features might have been reasons people chose to shell out $1,000+ for the iPhone X, there was one reason that stood out among all others.

The animojis.

Through the wonders of its True Depth camera and innovative facial mapping, the iPhone X lets users choose from a monkey, a puppy, a kitty, a robot, an alien, a chicken, a bunny, a unicorn and a talking pile of poop (they can’t all be cute) and then animate its face with their movements while recording a voice message to be spoken through their virtual mouths.

From the moment they were announced at Apple’s developer conference this year, the animojis elicited quite a bit of anticipation. For some, it was love at first sight — and reason enough to purchase the fanciest iPhone Apple has offered so far.

“OK, having now tried animoji, I can confirm that this is definitely the most important advance in computer science in at least a decade,” one particularly enthused Twitter user wrote.

Others found the innovation “creepy,” an “all-expense trip paid to the uncanny valley” and wondered “why anyone would want to use these terrifying things?”

And then, as review copies of the phones began to make the rounds, the answer came care of Fast Company Tech Editor Harry McCracken. The haters were silenced as the world beheld the wonder that is animoji karaoke.

 

What Is Animoji Karaoke?

We could tell you, but really, it’s better if we show you. With “Bohemian Rhapsody”:

For those of you who can’t watch for some reason, the video above is a four-part harmony sung by an animoji chicken, pig, fox and kitty and is widely considered the gold standard of animoji karaoke on the internet today.

If you find you’re not a fan of Queen, good news: YouTube has a few thousand other options.

Our personal favorite at PYMNTS is “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”:

Though, we have to say, it was in a close race with the animoji lip sync of Aqua’s 1999 classic “Barbie Girl” — a very, very close race.

And, if music isn’t your cup of tea, fear not: The entire internet has been at work on this for a week. You can also spend time watching movie trailers recut with emojis playing important roles. These videos are not only a good way to gain a new perspective on cinema, but they’re also a good way to learn the answers to questions you never knew you had.

For example, watching “The Dark Knight” trailer answers two burning, unasked questions:

  1. Can a cartoon rooster be absolutely terrifying? (Yes, when it sounds exactly like Heath Ledger’s Joker)
  2. Can Morgan Freeman’s voice make anything dignified? (Yes, even as a pink, sparkly unicorn).

Don’t believe us? Go ahead: Watch the trailer. We’ll wait.

See? Told you the unicorn was dignified and the chicken saying, “Why so serious?” was the stuff of nightmares.

But wait, it gets better. Some people decided that they wanted to edit the animojis directly into the action.

Ever wonder what the “You Can’t Handle The Truth” scene in “A Few Good Men” would look like if instead of Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise, it had been acted out by an animoji piglet and bunny rabbit? Feel like “Scarface” might have been a better movie if Al Pacino had been swapped out for an adorable cartoon monkey? Ever watch “Casablanca” and say to yourself, “You know, Humphrey Bogart is great in this, but what would it be like if a talking pile of poop delivered the, ‘Here’s looking at you, kid,’ line?”

Well, do we ever have good news for you.

So, Now What?

Animoji art — although greatly entertaining — does have some limitations. The first and most obvious being hardware, as the feature is not backwards compatible with older model iPhones because of its dependence on the True Depth camera and facial mapping software that only exists on the iPhone X. Users with earlier model iPhones can see the animoji messages they’re sent, but they can’t respond in kind unless they upgrade their phones.

Also, those fantastic videos we shared above aren’t something that one can easily make out of the box. The feature, as used in Messenger, only allows users to make 10 second recordings, and you might have noticed those clips were all longer than 10 seconds.

The trick is achieved by using the new “record video” feature that comes with the iPhone X while the animoji screen is open. By recording the screen, users can make a video as long as they want.

But, of course, that video shows a lot of extra stuff, so it has to be exported into a different video editing program so that everything on the screen but the animoji can be removed. All of those videos with multiple characters were separately recorded and separately edited before being digitally edited into a single clip showing multiple animojis singing or conversing with each other.

It is, by most accounts, a breathtaking amount of work.

There is a more tech-based hack that uses an animoji karaoke app which saves some of that time. But the mobile app is not currently available for download via the Apple Store (the API for animojis is locked, meaning Apple is not yet open for business on developer tweaks) and needs to be side-loaded from GitHub to place it on a phone. Oh, and the user has to set up a free developer account with Apple to actually use it.

Those various difficulties, many naysayers have noted, mean the animoji karaoke enthusiasm today is likely just a fad. Most users will forget the animoji feature even exists by Christmas.

They might be right, though we would note two things. One: Those videos are unbelievably fun to watch, and it is possible that experts are underestimating how much people who like viewing content inherently want to make similar content of their own.

Secondly, we remember hearing similar things about emoticons and emojis a decade ago. And yet, emojis are still with us today — and thriving. You can now even use them to order a pizza.

Even if enthusiasm does burn out, it is worth emphasizing the power behind animojis comes from the iPhone X’s True Depth camera technology — the same tech that powers Face ID. Apple thus far has found a way to get people to spend a lot of time interacting with the tech, which is critical, since one of Face ID’s selling features is its ability to learn more and more about your face the more a user looks at it.

Consumers are having fun with their phones, but also unknowingly training their technology to work better, which is some pretty slick packaging on Apple’s part.

So, will animojis — and their various lip sync-related uses — go the distance? It’s too early to tell, though we like to believe that someday we’ll live in a world where a talking unicorn can order us take-out.

Until we know, we, like the rest of the internet, will continue to enjoy the entertainment as it rolls out.

You might even say we’re hooked on a feeling.

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