Owners of Google Pixel devices now have a plethora of imaginary friends to play with thanks to the Playground augmented reality app.
The app, a rebrand of the AR Stickers app, launched as an exclusive app for the Google Pixel 3 and 3XL handsets in October. On Wednesday, Google unwrapped an update to the app on the Play Store, making the new features and its sticker packs, now known as Playmoji, available for previous-generation Pixel devices.
"Playground helps you bring more of your imagination to your photos and videos with interactive Playmoji — characters that react to each other and to you — and tell a richer story by adding animated stickers and creative captions," said Elisabeth Morant, Google's product manager for Playground, in a blog post.
The headlining Playmoji set is the Marvel Studio Avengers pack, which assembles Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Okoye (from Black Panther), and Nebula (of the Guardians of the Galaxy) in the user's physical space. Each character also comes with three poses that users can trigger. (It should be noted that each character survived the erasure of half of the universe's living beings in Avengers: Infinity War.)
Other new packs include Weather, Pets, Travel, Sports, and Signs, each comprised of 3D characters that represent their titular themes. So when you get bored with the Avengers, there's plenty to play with.
In addition, Playground brings a wide variety of animated stickers, some originating from Android Messages, into AR. For instance, Kiss Fist ASL hosts a set of cartoon depictions of American sign language phrases, while Long Live the Blob revives Google's blob-style of emojis.
As promised, Playground suggests content based on what the camera's computer vision analysis of the scene. Once launched, the camera may recommend the addition of three suggested actions for each Playmoji. For instance, with the Marvel characters, users can trigger three poses. In other instances, the app suggests other Playmoji or set dressing to add to the scene.
The front-facing camera also gets in on the fun now, as users can add a selection of Playmoji, which react to facial expressions, to their collection of selfies.
Along with the rebrand and new content types, Playground delivers a new UI, with two action buttons surrounding the camera trigger. To the left of the camera trigger, users can toggle between the front and rear-facing cameras, or open a tray with all of the sticker options available on the device (or install more from the Play Store). To the right, users can open the keyboard and type words or phrases they'd like to display in AR, or retrieve previously captured Playground images and video.
And while Apple isn't sharing its Animojis with anyone else, for Playground, the only apparent prerequisite is ARCore, as enterprising developers have ported AR Stickers to various Android devices, thus helping to possibly brighten your holiday season.