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Gizmoz launches personalized avatar service

Turn your head into an animated avatar with Gizmoz.

Tonight Gizmoz is launching an upgrade to its service that brings photo face-mapping technology to user avatars. Originally the service allowed users to add voice clips to various pre-existing characters, including celebrities, inanimate objects, and house pets. With this new technology, users can upload a photo of themselves and the service will automatically map their face to a moving, talking character.

Once user faces have been mapped, the service takes on a look and feel a little similar to that of Meez [review] with a build-it-yourself creation tool. Users can adorn their avatar in all sorts of clothing and hairstyle combinations. They can also record 20-second voice clips that will sync up with facial movements and gestures. The result is something that's both visually interesting and a tad creepy (in a Lawnmower Man kind of way).

Gizmoz claims that the entire process takes "under two minutes." Founder and CEO Eyal Gever explained to me that this face-mapping technology was what he originally intended when the service was in its infancy in 2003. It just took a few years to become viable and easy to use.

With the new face-mapping functionality, Gizmoz is also launching two new ways to share user-created talking heads. Previously users could only embed their creation as video clips. Gizmoz is now offering "stickers" and what the service calls an "answering machine." Stickers allow users to record a custom message, almost like a digital Post-it note. This service is aimed mostly for social network comment boards like MySpace.

The new answering machine feature is the more interesting of the two. Users can create and embed their own message (just like Stickers), and visitors can record and respond with their own Gizmoz video responses right inside the player. The new tool reminds me a little bit of Jaxtr's VoiceBlast widget, although a little less businesslike.

Gizmoz is launching these new services in conjunction with a distribution deal with RockYou and Freewebs. Users of both services will now be able to integrate Gizmoz. In my first experience with the site in February, I called it a "gag service." With this update, I think Gizmoz has become a very serious competitor to other social networking add-ons--especially Meez.

I've embedded the answering machine widget to the left. Feel free to add your own responses, and enjoy the head banging.