Photo: Microsoft.

CAPE TOWN – Microsoft announced that its virtual keyboard app SwiftKey has added a new augmented reality emoji feature called Puppets, that allows users to to turn the mselves into animated animals when they message their friends.

Deepak Paramanand, a Product Manager at the company said in a statement:“We wanted to give SwiftKey fans a fun way to communicate with their loved ones beyond pre-defined GIFs.”

“We created Puppets, a group of cute and furry friends that people can control just by being themselves. Choose one of five animals, record a message of less than 30 seconds and share it via one of the many popular communication apps supported by Android devices. It’s a fun way to stay in touch.”

How it works is that users will use their camera to create a virtual character such as a panda, cat, dog, owl or dinosaur in 3D which they can control with their head movements. The animated emoji uses artificial intelligence to replicate the users’ facial expressions. 

To begin using Puppets immediately, Android smartphone owners can download the SwiftKey Beta from the Google Play Store.

Since the company aquired Swiftkey in 2016 for a reported $250 million (R3.5 bn), it has brought many changes such as in November 2018, the company made it easier for people to share content from the internet by embedding a search engine into its keyboard. 

That came just months after the integration of Microsoft Translator, which let users chat in different languages by translating messages in real-time.

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