A collaboration of researchers from Tel Aviv University and Facebook aims to make it possible for users to change their selfie's facial expressions in a realistic way. A collaboration of researchers from Tel Aviv University and Facebook aims to make it possible for users to change their selfie's facial expressions in a realistic way. A collaboration of researchers from Tel Aviv University and Facebook aims to make it possible for users to change their selfie's facial expressions in a realistic way. (Photo: Tel Aviv University)

Change your selfie's facial expressions with the touch of a button

Scientists have figured out how to turn your frown upside down, or your smile to a frown, depending on your mood.

Current mood: Fascinated.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University, joining forces with the brainiacs at Facebook, have figured out a way to animate a photo without turning it into a GIF or video. (If you're not Facebook fluent, let's just say this really gives new meaning to the term "motion picture.")

They're basically taking a still photo and mapping its finest details to gather data, like expressions, creases, color and wrinkles. Then, they're correlating that data with various emotions, and that's where you, the user, come in.

The scientists – Hadar Averbuch-Elor and Daniel Cohen-Or, both of Tel Aviv University; and Johannes Kopf and Michael F. Cohen, both of Facebook – recently published a study laying out their findings.

"In contrast to previous work that requires an input video of the target face to reenact a facial performance, our technique uses only a single target image," the researchers wrote. "We animate the target image through 2D warps that imitate the facial transformations in the driving video."

The work of these four researchers is not the first time developers have attempted to animate selfies, but it might be the most natural-looking result. An app called Moojis, for example, lets you turn your selfie into a personalized emoji. Deliberately not realistic, it's a fun little endeavor.

Moojis takes emojis to a new, more personalized level. Moojis takes emojis to a new, more personalized level. (Photo: Moojis)

With the Tel Aviv-Facebook collaboration, realism is the goal, though the actual results do vary (maybe you don't smile that big, or your teeth aren't really that white, but they'll get there!). The next step, hopefully, is Facebook opening this technology to users, who will be able to animate their profile to correspond to their mood. Since Facebook was involved in the study, it would be a safe bet to say that's in the plans.

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