Netflix engineer makes video call feature that turns gestures into comic book text bubbles

The lens supports five gestures and can be used in Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype, and other videoconferencing tools

Adam Smith@adamndsmith
Wednesday 16 September 2020 12:20

A Netflix engineer has made a video lens which can tell what gesture a person is making, and displays comic-book style word balloons in response.

A video lens is an add-on for Google Hangouts, Zoom, Slack, and more.

The one this engineer used is developed by Snap, which owns Snapchat, and can be added on top of other software.

Cameron Hunter, posting a video of the lenses on Twitter, explained that it was developed in order to make video conferencing calls easier, but he only wrote it up because his manager asked how to install it

“In video meetings it's a hassle to unmute just to say one word especially if someone else is speaking”, Hunter tweeted.

“I created a video lens that uses hand gestures to show comic-book style messages instead. So far it's been pretty fun!”

Speech bubbles included in the lens are “Yes” and “No”, as well as “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Question”, “Awesome”, “I’ll be right back”, and “Ha ha ha ha”.

These are done through a range of gestures; “hello” is activated by raising an open hand, while “question” will appear when the user raises their index finger upwards.

The laughing speech bubble comes up when the camera detects the user moving their mouth, through the software’s smile detection feature.

Hunter says that building the lens was “incredibly easy”, but he would like the software to do more

Currently, Snapchat’s Lens Studio only supports give hand gestures, which means it cannot yet be used to translate more complex movements such as British or American sign language.

Snap’s lens studio can be used with multiple services, but finding Hunter’s specific lens is slightly tricky as it has yet to be published and so does not show up in the search bar.

Copying and pasting Hunter’s specific link, however, will allow it to be added.

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