Google patent could replace your contacts’ profile pictures with animations

It’s patent time again. Recently we looked at a new Apple patent that could help Siri learn about new words and phrases more quickly, but now it’s Google’s turn. The company has been awarded a patent that looks to be purely aesthetic — but still kinda cool.

The patent itself describes a method of creating “animated user identifiers.” As mentioned in the patent, when you make a call — or video call — the system could take a few pictures through the front-facing camera to create a little animation, then send it to the receiver of the call — who will have a little more to go on that just the name that pops up on the screen. That identifier can then be used again — like in contacts apps, chat apps, or any other time that an identifier might be appropriate.

Google has been thinking of better user identifiers for a while now. Not only is the patent a continuation of a patent that was first filed in May 2016, but Google also implemented a related version of this in Duo, its video calling app. In Duo, the phone starts sending video to the receiver of a video call before they’ve even picked up, so the receiver can see who’s calling them. That video, however, isn’t used again for profile pictures of a user — so it’s a little different than what the new patent describes.

Of course, just because the patent has been awarded to Google, that doesn’t mean that we’ll end up seeing it any time soon. Companies like Apple and Google routinely file and are awarded patents — and those patents often end up not being used. Still, it would be nice to see new features like this show up — and it’s entirely possible that we could see the new system in Android P.

We’ve seen a few new patents come out of Google recently. A few weeks ago, the company was awarded a patent related to using multiple smartphones in a speaker system — so you could sync up your phone with your friends’ phones at a BBQ to all play the same music, without the need for any external speakers.

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