Intel is gearing up to release a Pocket Avatars app for iOS and Android that harnesses facial recognition technology to let users send messages through 3D avatars, and it could use your help.

The company is looking for beta testers, but users will need an iPhone 5, iPad 3, iPad 4, Galaxy S3 or S4 to participate. If you’re interested and have the right device, you can sign up here. Note: Intel is currently only accepting testers from the US and China.

Pocket Avatars looks interesting, a bit like Tom the Talking Cat on steroids. The app uses the camera on a smartphone or tablet to track facial expressions while you talk and then map them onto an avatar. The list of possible avatars includes: “cartoon characters, film or TV personalities, sports stars, musicians, team mascots, or family pets.” Once you’ve recorded a message, it can be sent via SMS or email, though Intel has hinted at plans to enable live 3D avatar chat as well.

The app itself has been in the works for some time now. Intel first teased this technology back in early 2008, well before the app ecosystem and messaging mania had taken off.

While a 3D avatar messaging app may seem a bit out of Intel’s specialty, the facial recognition aspect fits into its interest in perceptual computing, which is pursuing new interfaces such as gesture tracking and voice control.

➤ Pocket Avatars beta test

Image credit: Intel