Why we’re in love with Apple Animoji.

The emotional journey of neural engines and artificial
intelligence’s inevitable innovations.

Do you ever awake and wish that you were a monkey or a bear? Do you ever get to work and wish you could be a unicorn for the day? (I do. Perhaps because of a lack of sleep or the stiff drinks from the night before.) In rare cases those feelings may even push you to awaken whichever creature lives inside you and show everyone your true spirit animal.

We all have been someone’s “sweet bear” or “ugly chicken” at some point in our lives; we have passed all kinds of relationships earning our fair share of animal nicknames while in love, hate, or somewhere in between. Of course, we don’t often reveal these details to the general public, but due to the recent integration of some of the coolest new volumetric and artificial intelligence technologies into our favorite phones, our secret animal identities have quickly become reality.

Since the very first personal computers, we have enjoyed identifying our digital selves with two dimensional avatars. On my MacBook, I am a grinning Shaun the Sheep. But while these avatars were surely entertaining and endearing, they were never genuinely emotional, only skimming the surface of our true beings. Apple’s Animoji melt the avatar and emoji together into a new digital form through the iPhone X’s combination of depth sensors, volumetric video, and 3D mesh cloud points, enabling users to map themselves to their spirit animal within seconds.

It seems that through the new application of a neural engine and a beloved set of iOS emoji, Apple found a way to convince consumers to happily fork over $1,000. We can be a cuddly panda bear today, a stylish chicken tomorrow, and whenever needed, a sparkly alien straight from Daft Punk. In truth, whenever we focus on the fancy glass and “all screen” display of the iPhone X, we overlook the fact that its core technology is made of a spanking new bionic neural engine that takes machine learning algorithms to an entirely different level. It’s surely great fun to transform ourselves into a unicorn when we feel the urge, but the application of this technology has only just begun.

When Apple first debuted the iPhone X in its September event, giving fans the first sneak peek of animated emoji, it also added that the new silicon could enable unspecified “other features” in the future. While we are not clear on what those will be, we surely should keep our eyes and ears wide open. Chip experts say the new neural engines could become central to the future of many portable devices that rely on machine learning algorithms and dimensional motion sensors. At Samsung, we are working on creating our own version of the neural engine, and more applicable innovations (in healthcare, automotive, and software utilities) are about to enter our lives and improve them.

All that is left for now is to savor the thousands of Instagram and Twitter posts that use Animoji to display their authors’ incredible creative virtues, and to choose my favorite animal for the day that my own iPhone X arrives as well. I am sure some fantastic new feature is indeed coming to us from Apple, but for now, I can savor the joy of leaving voice messages for my doctor while posing as a singing alien.