Thanks to the pandemic, more white-collar workers are working from home than ever. That’s even true in Japan, where a staunch office culture has given way to teleworking.
The shift to working from home has had some benefits, some downsides, and some, ah…rather disgusting abuses. It’s also raised a lot of discussion around dress codes, with some schools and even companies insisting that students and employees suit up while sitting in their living rooms. In response, one company in Japan has developed a computer vision app to ensure you never have to change out of your PJs again.
The product, xpression camera, comes from Tokyo-based company EmbodyMe Inc. After downloading and configuring xpression, users can select it as the camera source for their video conferencing app, like Zoom or Google Meet. The app superimposes the user’s mouth into the selected picture. More impressively, it tracks minor movements in the user’s head and animates the selected photo in response.
The results are mixed, in my opinion. Based on the picture you choose, the projected video can be anything from impressive to a little eery.
Yourself, But With a SuitFor what it's worth, I do not recommend showing up to your next meeting as Genghis Khan. Click To Tweet
The app has some fairly ridiculous uses. A video preview shows users pretending to be everyone from Genghis Khan to the girl with a pearl earring. (For what it’s worth, I do not recommend showing up to your meetings as Genghis Khan.)
Its more pedestrian use, however, is to conceal the fact that you just rolled out of bed like the slob you are. By simply setting a still photo of yourself as the “background”, you can make believe that you’re actually prepared for that 7:30am conference call.
An App to Address “Zoom Exhaustion”
The app might be just the thing for weary office workers and students in Japan who have been called out on their at-home dress. Many companies and schools in Japan are insisting that workers show up to meetings as if they were going to school or meeting with clients.The big question is: Will schools and employers tolerate it? The app is good, but it's not so good that people can't tell it's not really you. Click To Tweet
In response to questions from Japanese news network FNN, EmbodyMe says that they created the app mainly to address what they call “Zoom exhaustion” (ZOOM疲れ; Zoom tsukare). Users interviewed by the company say they’ve grown weary of always ensuring their houses were tidy and they had their hair straight and make-up applied for their early morning confabs.
The company says they developed their own deep learning application to make xpression camera a reality. The app grinds the numbers to create a 50,000-point 3D model of a user’s face. The company further claims that it’s able to translate facial movements into fake reactions on-screen within 0.01 seconds.
The big question is: Will schools and employers tolerate it? The app is good, but it’s not so good that people can’t tell it’s not really you. While the app will surely improve with time, it remains to be seen if companies will let users get away with in in the meanwhile.
Want to try it out for yourself? Go to xpression camera’s Web site and request an invite! Unfortunately, only the MacOS version is currently available. However, Windows users can sign up for notification when the Windows version is ready to test.