Gboard may soon unshackle you from Emoji Kitchen with an AI image generator

If Imagen AI is included, the possibilities for expression are endless

Google's Gboard is easily one of the best keyboard apps available on Android today, and for all the good reasons. Besides the fully-featured keyboard, the app includes convenient gestures to move the cursor or select text and adequate modes of expression through a massive emoji library. If the standard characters approved by the Unicode Consortium don't suffice, you can cook up some wild combinations with Emoji Kitchen. We are now learning Google's plans to integrate photorealistic AI called Imagen to aid creative expression.

If you aren't familiar, Imagen is one of Google's research projects introduced in May 2022. It uses AI to convert textual prompts into photorealistic images, much like popular tools DALL-E 2 and Midjourney. The AI model comprises a text encoder, a text-to-image diffusion model, and a resolution-enhancing diffusion model. Upon digging through the strings of code in the latest Gboard beta (v12.7.05.507749191), 9to5Google reports finding references to an "Imagen Keyboard." This could be a sign of the upcoming Imagen integration with Gboard. Probably, Imagen could be added in the Gboard Shortcuts section featuring options like Theme settings, a GIF selector, and Google Translate integration.

The chances of this new AI integration coming our way don't seem far-fetched. For months now, Google has been working on ways to integrate AI into its services, as was clear at the surprise event where a conversational chatbot called Bard was introduced. However, Google Research has voiced a few concerns with the public use of Imagen.

The AI model isn't publicly available yet because Google fears people could misuse it. You see, Imagen's AI has also been trained using datasets containing pornographic material and images scraped from the web, both of which contain (at least subsets of) inappropriate content. If Imagen uses the data, results may offend certain communities or come across as racist and stereotypical.

Google promises to ensure safeguards are in place before Imagen rolls out to the masses, but that could take an unspecified amount of time. On the bright side, Imagen also has one enormous advantage — it is reliant on diffusion models which run optimally even on portable hardware like smartphones without significantly denting performance or battery life. Results remain faithful to their text prompts, faring admirably well in evaluations by humans. So, we aren't too surprised Gboard stands to benefit from more AI integration down the road. Until Google figures out the technicalities, you can rely on Emoji Kitchen for some out-of-this-world characters.

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