INTEL HAS REVEALED its first foray into the world of instant messaging.
Better known for its chips than its software, Intel's Pocket Avatars app for Android allows you to take on the guise of one of hundreds of avatars.
The freemium app offers options to purchase alter egos or pick from the free starter list. At launch, a range of characters is available, including Annoying Orange, LEGO characters, Gumby, Care Bears, animals and people, with more to follow.
At the heart of the app is facial scanning and tracking capable of recognising facial features and emotions, everything from shouting to kissing. The expressions are mapped to the avatar and then deleted.
Intel is keen to point out that the service is not going to be used for facial recognition or data mining, simply as an alternative for people who want to video call but don't want their face onscreen.
The app is the result of research at Intel Labs, which has been studying the art of facial mapping for years, looking at ways to 3D render faces over a network.
It's certainly a far cry from the company's other interests. Elsewhere this week, Intel has announced a hybrid Xeon and FPGA processors for cloud data centres, where it is highly unlikely that avatars of annoying oranges will be featured.
Intel apparently sees a gap in the instant messaging market, which has proven hugely lucrative. Whatsapp, which was bought by Facebook for $19bn, now claims to have over half a billion users.
At launch the Pocket Avatars app is available only in the USA and Canada. We've contacted Intel for further details on a UK launch date. µ