Google has added a new feature called ‘Minis’ to Gboard, which lets users create customized stickers by taking a selfie. This creates a Bitmoji/Memoji like virtual avatar that can be copy and pasted in different apps. The feature works by using a combination of algorithms and neural networks, along with a number of personalization options, to create a digital replica of you.
Unlike Bitmoji and Memoji, Google relies on its expertise in visual recognition algorithms to scan your face and create a character that looks like you. The new option can be access by going to Stickers in Gboard. A new icon, that looks like an cartoonish wink, takes you to the new feature.
Users are asked to scan their face so that the app can create their character. For testing purposes, I used a photo of good ol’ Tom Cruise. After capturing the image, the app takes a few seconds to suggest two versions of your character, categorized separately as Bold mini and Sweet mini. The difference between the two is the assets that they use. The artwork for both styles has been created by different artists.
You are given the option to customize either of the bold or sweet minis right away. They can also be customized later from the app, or even deleted. In terms of personlization options, you can hair, eyes, face shapes, headwear and much more. However, having used Bitmoji and Memoji, these options seems severely lacking. The variety of personalization options can not be compared to Bitmoji and Memoji.
Once you have setup your mini, you can use it by going to Sticker in Gboard and tapping on any of the expressions. Tapping on an expression copies it to the clipboard, allowing you to paste it anywhere. Unfortunately, you cannot drag them out as is the case with iMessage apps.
This is not the first time that Google has introduced this feature. Back in 2007, Allo, one of Google’s many messaging app experiments, had also received similar functionality. The feature is a nice touch and highlights Google’s prowess in image recognition. It does not always get your character right but you can always tweak and improve it later. Having created a mini in Gboard, I could not have help but wonder why Apple didn’t add an option to scan and create a Memoji for you. It definitely makes the process quicker and easier.
The new minis feature is rolling out now to all Gboard users on iOS and Android.