Meet the Israeli app that wants to fill the world with hearts and teddy bears


At Facebook’s F8 developers’ conference last Wednesday, the company made a dramatic announcement.

Facebook is transforming its Messenger app into a platform, enabling “developers to easily build apps that integrate with Messenger; so that the more than 600 million people who use Messenger can find new, fun ways to express themselves with GIFs, photos, videos, audio clips and more.”

It looks as though Messenger, which many observers felt could not justify its existence as a stand-alone app, has now become Facebook’s most pampered child, attracting a lot of its parents’ attention and resources. One of the companies expected to assist in this transformation is Israel’s Homage, the six-person team behind the Emu app, available on the App Store.

Making Messenger cool (for tweens?)

Facebook really wants Messenger to be our preferred messaging app. To that end, it is integrating about 40 apps into the platform, apps that let you play with a variety of content and formats. Instead of just boring text, some photos and prepackaged emojis, there is an abundance of cutesy, kitschy bells and whistles.

Emu allows you to create personalized animated stickers using a selfie. Emu’s parent company, Homage officially launched the app at the TechDate event on March 15 at the INTV conference in Jerusalem.

To create a sticker “or emu,” as the app calls them, just snap a selfie, align your head with the outline, and then the fun part begins as you choose from a wide variety of animated backgrounds.

For instance, you can give yourself a pair of animated angel’s wings, devil’s horns, rainbows, hearts or even teddy bears. Once you’ve chosen the background, you can send your emu through Messenger. Your friend doesn’t have to have installed Emu to view the special effects of your head festooned by teddy bears, but should your friend choose to reply in kind, he will be given the option of installing the app.

At present, the app is only available for iOS. However, the developers assured Geektime that they are hard at work on an Android version which should be available in the coming weeks.

An app in its infancy

The company behind Emu is Homage Technology Ltd, founded in  2013 by Tomer Harry, Nir Hanes and Yoav Caspin. Since its founding, the company has raised several hundred thousand dollars from a private angel investor as well as the office of the Israeli chief scientist. The company has six employees and is situated in Tel Aviv’s Montefiore neighborhood.

Speaking to Geektime, Hanes says the Emu app was launched in the iTunes store just two weeks ago, and that’s why they were surprised to get a call from Facebook. Since Facebook’s announcement at the F8 conference, Hanes says they’ve seen a surge of thousands of percentage points in the number of people installing and using the app.

What is their business model? Hanes says the company plans to partner with content brands like Hello Kitty and others and charge users money for branded stickers.

In addition, movie studios that want to market a new film can pay Emu to feature their character in the app.

Beyond photos and emojis

In addition to the integration of Emu and Magisto, which are both Israeli apps, Facebook announced a host of other apps that will be integrated with Messenger.

Some of the highlights include Action Movie FX, which will allow you to add special effects like explosions and aliens to videos you shoot and send; Camoji, an app that lets you create GIFs with your camera; FlipLip Voice Changer, which allows you to send voice messages that alter your voice; Giphy, the world’s largest database of animated gifs; Hook’d, a social Karaoke app; Meme Generator, which helps you create graphics you hope everyone shares; and one of our favorites ClipDis, which allows you to type a text and get a mashup of famous movie and TV actors saying the text, with each person saying a different word.

Translated from Hebrew by Simona Weinglass



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