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Living Digital

Love apps, technology, marketing, and innovation? Take a listen to Living Digital. Hosted by digital professional, Jazmin Butler.

Living Digital 015: Motion Portrait App Review and Live Photos

Jazmin Butler

You know how some apps spike in popularity? Before you know it, your timeline is flooded with the newest way for people to express their digital identity. Here's my take on the Motion Portrait app.

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Podcast Transcript
Today, I'll be also reviewing an app called Motion Portrait. A photo app that I saw pop up a few times in my twitter and IG feeds last week. You know how some apps spike in popularity. And before you know it, your timeline is flooded with the newest way for people to express their digital identity. I know y'all remember the MyIdol app. 
Well, Motion Portrait, which was originally a Sony technology, is in the same ballpark. So, why do a review of this one?  It literally stopped me from whatever I was doing for at least an hour. Why? their use of CG turns something familiar into well...depending on who you are, something really cool or kinda creepy.
Here's how it works. You take or upload a portrait. Indicate where the eyes and mouth are. Hit next. And suddenly there's a face nodding and blinking at you. 
I'd compare it to the living portraits in Harry Potter. I don't want to be morbid. But, you remember the scene when Harry was looking at a photo of his deceased parents and they smile and look at him lovingly? It kinda gave me that feeling when I converted photos of a couple family members. I lost my maternal grandfather earlier in the year. And seeing him turn his head and smirk felt like some twisted version of FaceTime. Same thing with my paternal grandfather (who I never met).
And here's where we might lose some people. I'm going to call it the Chucky Factor. Some people just aren't comfortable (illusion or not), seeing inadimate objects "come to life". It's unsettling. And don't get me wrong. It clearly looks like CGI. A bit robotic. You know, a hint of that Polar Express dead eye thing.
But there's definitely value there. Specifically for artists. 95% of photos under the motion portrait hashtag were drawings and paintings. So, it kinda served as shorthand animation. I tried it with some old drawings I did in college. very cool. I'll include them in the show notes over at livingdigital.me. If you have kids, this would be a great app to integrate into art time. That way little Timmy can have nightmares about his own monsters. I'm just playing. It seems like a nice addition to the art world. 
That brings us to improvements. As of right now in 2015, the style and design seems very...2012. So, it clashes a little with the flat look that came in with iOS7. And like I mentioned before it clearly looks like CG, and does even more so when you use their recording feature. Ideally, when you speak, the portrait will mirror back what you say. But it ends up looking like a Jimmy Fallon lip flip and sounding like those parrot toys from back in the day. 
There are other features to add: wigs, glasses, beards...things like that. But for me, the selling point was sentimentality. And nobody does sentimental like Apple...and life insurance commercials. 
The Live Photo feature was introduced with the iPhone 6s in September 2015. Live Photo captures a 3 second micro video as you take a picture. And even as a compulsive photo and video taker I couldn't see the point. Why don't you just take a video? 
Then it landed with me. As it seems to be landing with a few brands that also "see it". Both Instagram and Tumblr have launched gif makers. There's a way to consume media in-between photo and video that offers something unique. A stimulation that's compounded when it comes to the nostalgic.
So, as always, when it comes to playing with apps like this, I'll include examples in the show notes over at LivingDigital.me. And if you have cool gifs or motion portraits that you've created yourself I'd love to check it out. On Instagram I'm @LivingDigital.