While non-verbal cues such as body language and facial expression play a pivotal role in conveying emotions and meaning of the communication in real life, digital communication has a limitation to the creative use of language, punctuation and static smilies to convey meaning.
To bring expressive elements into digital communication (especially, mobile-based) four ex- Samsung India employees — Uday Kadirvel, Siddhartha Vinnakote, Subrahmanyam A S and Sujith Kumar co-founded Mobigraph.
Mobigraph thinks users deserve better. “We’re an emotion-focussed company. At Mobigraph we want to enhance the current emotionally bankrupt digital communication,” says Uday.
Mobigraph was founded in 2015 by experts in the graphics software and visual design solutions for the mobile. The quadruple (team of four) observed that digital conversations are highly textual and emotionally bankrupt.
Emotional aspects in digital communication
Existing static emojis and stickers aren’t enough to deliver the real emotional value in digital chat. In a real conversation, one’s personality, body language, facial expressions and the words he/she speaks, all these blends together to deliver the emotional value.
“We solved this problem by creating a new avatar tech with hyper-personalized emotions with avatars, animations, and visual effects.
In 2015, the company launched its first product QUGO, which was a messenger with the tech avatar.
“With QUGO, we realized that it’s hard for users to adapt one more messenger. At the same time, QUGO users wanted to share their animated avatars to friends in other chat platforms,” adds Siddhartha.
Pivot from messenger to animated GIFs
A year later, it pivoted and created a new product, XPRESSO, which creates an animated GIF. By blending the visual elements like avatars, facial expressions, gestures, text animations, rich visual effects to reflect the right emotional state of the user.
Animoji GIFs are sharable across any platform like Messengers, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp amongst several others.
Launched in March 2017, XPRESSO App is growing organically, and claims to generate 10 million GIFs in a month. “Our XPRESSO tech innovation is powered by Amazon GPU Cloud. Cloud APIs make it easy for integration with any messaging, keyboard partners,” reveals Uday.
For all messaging and keyboard companies, XPRESSO appears to be an alternate for Bitmoji. Acquired by Snapchat, Bitmoji gives you an entertaining and dynamic visual identity that lets you express yourself in ways that words can’t capture.
Currently, Mobigraph has partnered with TouchPal, one of the top keyboard apps and 4lio (world’s first AR contact app). “We are in active partnership discussions with top GIF companies, keyboard, and messaging Companies. XPRESSO tech has created great traction in chatbots, augmented reality and virtual reality apps,” says Siddhartha.
Competitors: Bobble and Bitmoji
Globally Mobigraph’s biggest competitor is Snapchat-owned Bitmoji, which is integrated only into the Snapchat ecosystem. Importantly, it’s not animated, but recently they launched AR filter based animations.
“We believe that Bitmoji AR filter is targeted more towards fun or cool factor rather than towards conveying an emotion,” says Uday.
Bobble is a local competitor. It leverages users’ real face and creates caricatured animation. Meanwhile, Xpresso emphasizes on facial expression, body language and storytelling. “We think that, with caricatured static user face, Booble is limited in terms of the facial expression and body language,” adds Siddhartha.
Funding and road ahead
So far, the company has raised about $950K from Silicon Valley-based angels Mark Lin and Shirish Phatak. The company isn’t making any revenue yet. “We have started efforts towards partnerships, we should be making revenue in the first quarter of 2018. Currently, we are in talks with a few major OEMs for keypad integration of Xpresso. API Integration is underway with Touchpal (One of the top keyboard companies on Playstore).
The company is also geared to power ads with its creative strength. Currently, it’s doing pilot projects running with a few big media houses.
Mobigraph aims to roll-out some interesting features in near future. Converting a selfie photo to the animated avatar is currently in R&D. It claims to bring some mind-blowing animations to user text. Besides, a lot of other features around avatars are in store.