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Now SwiftKey’s got its own version of Apple’s Memoji − yes, SwiftKey

Microsoft’s new facial tracking feature will allow you to send video reactions as a cute animal from the SwiftKey app. But how does it compare to Memoji?

Puppets is a new feature now available on SwiftKey Beta for Android. You can choose one of five different animals (Panda, Cat, Dog, Panda, Owl) with which to record a 30-second animated message, and your facial movements will be transposed onto the creatures by way of a tracking technology.

It might initially appear very similar to Apple’s Memoji software for iPhone, but there are some fundamental differences.

Related: Best Android phones

Here’s how it works: AI technology based on video recordings of thousands of volunteers have trained a deep neural network to identify facial movements and track them onto a computer-generated character. This means that the app does not require an in-built depth sensor in the device unlike similar apps, and it uses 3D face-tracking technology based on the RGB camera present in almost every Android smartphone.

Fortunately that means the new feature will be accessible to almost anyone with an Android smartphone (but Microsoft recommends that people with a newer and more powerful handset will have a better experience).

It’s an unusual turn from a keyboard app best known for its swipe-typing function. Deepak Paramanand, Microsoft’s product manager, justified the change by saying: “People want to type fast, and SwiftKey is perfect for that. They also want to express themselves in a fun and interesting way, and now SwiftKey is perfect for that, too.”

At first glance the feature looks very similar to Memoji from Apple. However, that app allowed far greater customisation of avatars and relies on a depth camera (present on the iPhone X onwards). If you’re a fan of this wacky interactive feature then there’s good news for you, because even more customisation (including piercings and headwear) will be included in the software package for iOS 13.

Related: Best iPhones

Xiaomi has also thrown its hat into the ring shortly with, er, Mimoji. Xiaomi has vigorously defended itself from allegations of ripping off Memoji. Mimoji will come out on July 5, along with the Xiaomi CC9 smartphone.

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