Emojivision app turns your iPhone’s camera into a real-time emoji painting machine

Your iPhone is capable of some impressive feats of computational photography, and a new app created by developer Gabriel O’Flaherty-Chan shows one way all that power can be put to creative use. Emojivision lets you see the world as if it were made up entirely of emojis.

The free app (which induces an in-app purchase for $2.79 that unlocks more emoji packs) works by breaking down your iPhone’s camera sensor input to its color palette fundamentals, finding its nearest neighbor from a subset of emojis (organized thematically within the app) and then rebuilding the image with a filter that overlays the image, and that can run at 60fps, so you’d be hard-pressed to spot any lag between it and a real-time feed.

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You can use the app to take selfies, interpret photos from your phone’s photo gallery or just mess around with resolution to see how finely detailed, or how abstractly and yet obviously emoji-based, you can get. This isn’t the app to go to if you’re looking for a hyper-realistic or clear visual interpretation of your face, but it is a fun thing to show your friends — and an impressive bit of software engineering, too.

O’Flaherty-Chan has created some noteworthy mobile software projects in the past — including when he managed to hack a fully playable version of Pokémon Yellow onto an Apple Watch. He’s currently working on building a gigantic real-time strategy game set within a procedurally generated universe – like a “No Man’s Sky” but with a focus on the RTS elements, which should make for a very compelling and evolving approach to gathering resources and expanding your empire.