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Do emoji ever die? The true story behind the images on our iPhones

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If you have a smartphone, or use the internet at all in 2019, you probably know emoji – those small pictures that seem to punctuate nearly every written exchange today. (Some of you are probably even thinking your responses in emoji right now.)

There’s the heart, the thumbs up, the now-ubiquitous smiling swirl of poop, the “Face With Tears of Joy,” which Oxford Dictionaries named the 2015 word of the year, and a few thousand more. Every year, it seems to take longer to swipe the perfect one you’re looking for, as more and more emoji options proliferate. 

Ever wonder where emoji come from or where they go to die – if they die? 

The answer to those questions is largely true of all emoji: Each one is birthed through a proposal process run by the Unicode Consortium, the nonprofit organization that has curated emoji since 2010.

Anyone can propose an emoji – yes, you could, too. That said, each proposal needs to meet a strict set of standards. For instance, any new emoji must be distinctive, it must be something people will use, and it must add something to the set.

“We look for which one is clearly missing,” Welch said. “Aces, hearts, clubs, but no diamonds?” 

Too many emoji? 

Over time, this thought process has helped lead to the 3,178 emoji in existence today, according to emoji reference website Emojipedia. Many emoji are simply part of a set. With flags, for instance, Welch said that if you have one, you have to have them all, or at least all of the ones of countries recognized by the United Nations. Others include different skin tones and gender variations of emoji depicting people.

And there will always be more emoji, because the idea of “too many emoji” exists only in theory at Unicode. 

“Theoretically, there could be too many emoji,” said Greg Welch, a member of Unicode’s board of directors. “If there is an emoji for every single object in the universe, then yes, that is too many.” 

In fact, for Welch, the potential issue of having too many emoji is more of an issue with user interface. While most platforms save users’ most-used emoji near the front of your emoji keyboard, they may want to scroll through to find something they’ve never used before, and that can take a lot of sifting. Welch believes this can be alleviated through future systems that use facial and voice recognition to gather emoji.

‘Use at least one Emoji per text’: The new rules of communicating in the digital era

Could my favorites get deleted?

Whether one thinks there are too many or not, Unicode is not going to delete an emoji anytime soon. According to Welch, deleting an emoji would be like deleting an obscure function in Microsoft Excel, because while the rate of use for some emoji may be small, it is never absolute zero. And like the Excel function, removing any one emoji could retroactively ruin someone’s work. It would be as if a web browser suddenly lost support for the letter L. 

“Once (an emoji) is part of the set it stays in the set,” Welch said.  

Yes, you now have these emoji: New Emoji include ‘tiny penis’ and ‘period blood,’ according to the Internet

More inclusive emoji: New emojis promoted by Tinder represent interracial couples

Unicode was originally created to provide consistency in how computers encode and display language on different computer systems. Because of Unicode, English, Cyrillic, Mandarin, and hundreds of other writing systems can be viewed on any computer.

And basically, the emoji you send from your iPhone to your friend’s Android phone shows up because both systems understand the Unicode number that represents each emoji. They just appear differently on, say, Facebook, your iPhone, or Twitter because of each of these company’s stylistic choices. 

Who decides what emoji mean? 

According to Jennifer Daniel, the creative director of emoji at Google and a voting member of the Unicode Consortium, the emoji in the context of communication is one of the primary factors in deciding how an emoji will look.  

For instance, an ice cube emoji could have myriad meanings that must be considered in the design process, and can even determine where the emoji appears on the emoji keyboard. Is ice a solid or a liquid? Should it be melting? Is it food? Does the ice cube mean that the sender is cold, or that the recipient has been burned? 

Often, Daniel will talk with experts to inform Google’s emoji design, especially if the given emoji deals with someone’s experience, or identifies with the emoji. This is especially true of emoji that depict disability. Ultimately, for Daniel, aid in communication is key when considering emoji design and introduction. 

“Will this result in people not understanding each other?” Daniel said. “What do people need help saying?”

That answer comes from many different places, from individuals to large organizations. For instance, the Gates Foundation, along with Johns Hopkins Center for Communication, lobbied in 2017 for the mosquito emoji, which was released in 2018.

Other times, these ideas come from people who want to express their cultural experience with emoji.  

When there is no emoji for what you want to say

During the Chinese New Year of 2017, Natalia Lin, the project manager at the Facemoji Keyboard app, noticed that she couldn’t express herself to her family and friends the way she wanted to with emoji. There was none that truly reflected her experience as a Chinese person. 

So Lin, who describes herself as “a little emoji addicted,” thought of proposing three emoji that all share great significance in Chinese culture: a firecracker, a moon cake, and a red envelope.

According to Lin, all of these symbols are distinctly Chinese. The moon cake, for instance, is a common treat and an iconic symbol of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The firecracker and red envelope, on the other hand, are synonymous with Chinese New Year. During that holiday, celebrants set off firecrackers, and elderly family members give money to younger relatives inside red envelopes. 

“These symbols are central to Chinese identity,” Lin said. “For Chinese people anywhere in the world, these things are imbued with tons of meaning.” 

Lin proposed her emoji in 2017, which, after three rounds of approval, were later introduced in June 2018. To help get these emoji approved, she pointed to statistics over 1 billion digital red envelopes had been sent the previous Chinese New Year, pointing to their ubiquity. Overall, Lin said she is satisfied with how the emoji approval process allows for the inclusion of different voices and cultures.

 “Emoji is just a better way to express yourself,” Lin said.

Which emoji do you use most? Share your favorites with us on our Facebook page. 



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Disney Plus doc The Imagineering Story takes a beautiful theme park tour

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The Imagineering Story traces the history of Disney Parks from their earliest days.


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Documentaries probably aren’t the first thing that spring to mind when you think of the new Disney Plus streaming service. Most of us are thinking about the original Star Wars and Marvel shows, the vast library of classic movies, or revisiting obscure shows of our childhoods. 

Still, Disney Parks are a pillar of the company’s business, and The Imagineering Story promises a tantalizing peek behind the curtain. The six-episode documentary — narrated by Angela Bassett and directed by Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible‘s Leslie Iwerks — premieres on Disney’s streaming service on Nov. 12. I got access to the first two engaging episodes. 

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Walt Disney is center stage in the first episode.


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The first focuses on founder Walt Disney, providing a nice emotional through line as it traces the origins of his theme park idea in the late ’40s. The documentary shows how revered he was by employees and how demanding he was as a boss, but doesn’t reveal much about who he was beneath the kindly exterior. 

After choosing Anaheim, California, as the location for Disneyland, Walt gathers the Imagineers (a term referring to imagination engineering, popularized by Disney) to design it. Even though Disney Parks have been rooted in pop culture for decades now, it’s cool to be reminded of the ambition behind them.

We’re smoothly guided through the project to its 1955 opening day — a disaster due to overcrowding, high temperatures and plumbing problems. There’s a wealth of archival footage, interspersed with present-day interviews, so you get a sense of how uncomfortable and chaotic it must’ve been.

The real meat of the documentary comes when it focuses on iconic rides like the Matterhorn Bobsleds. Original designer Bob Gurr (who’s now 88) is fascinating to listen to as he outlines what Walt tasked him with. Seeing the original schematics for this 50-year-old roller coaster — and the secret basketball hoop workers set up in its bowels — is surprisingly exciting, like you’re being guided into a world few people have seen.

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The documentary looks at the model who inspired Haunted Mansion fortune-teller Madame Leota.


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We also get in-depth looks at It’s A Small World (with its love-it-or-hate-it theme song) and Pirates of the Caribbean (which has an epic tune). The documentary’s close look at the animatronic figures that populate these rides will make you appreciate them in a whole new way.

Picking up after Walt’s death in 1966, the second episode focuses on the construction of Disney World in Florida and Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow). Walt envisioned this as a futuristic city containing businesses, residential areas and mass transportation systems, but his successors ultimately scaled it down into a theme park celebrating human achievement.


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The documentary highlights some of Walt’s wild concepts, and reminds us how impressive the finished Epcot actually is — it contained voice recognition tech and touchscreens long before they entered the mainstream. It also touches on the mass layoffs that happened after it was done in 1982, keeping the human element in focus.

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The artists behind Disney Parks shine in this documentary series.


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We also get an engaging deep dive into the creation of the Haunted Mansion, but Space Mountain is glossed over a bit too quickly. Much of the rest of the episode is devoted to Disneyland Tokyo and the Japanese love of all things Disney — adding a lively cultural dimension to the series. 

Overall, the first two episodes of The Imagineering Story balance the creative and design sides of Disney Park history with the human stories. It’s a little sanitized — we don’t hear from guests or any cast members who have to wear bulky costumes all day — and sometimes you’ll wish it dug deeper into your favorite ride. But it’s hard not to come away with a massive appreciation for the people who made these incredible theme parks possible.

Originally published Nov. 4. 



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2 reasons why the 'Shining' sequel 'Doctor Sleep' flopped at the box office

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  • “Doctor Sleep,” a sequel to “The Shining” based on Stephen King’s book of the same name, made just $14 million domestically over the weekend.
  • Box-office experts say that the studio Warner Bros.’ made two drastic mistakes: marketing it as a “Shining” sequel and not releasing it during the Halloween season.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

“Doctor Sleep,” from “The Haunting of Hill House” director Mike Flanagan, seemed like a winner not long ago. 

Going into the movie’s opening weekend, the studio Warner Bros. was projected to make up to $30 million domestically. Boxoffice Pro predicted a $25 million haul, while Box Office Mojo projected $27 million. But when initial box-office numbers rolled in on Friday — and it had made just $1.5 million in Thursday night previews — the movie’s outlook dimmed.

“‘Doctor Sleep’ was unable to parlay its connection to ‘The Shining’ into an expected $25 million to $30 million-plus weekend and the tracking was clearly off by a country mile,” Paul Dergarbedian, the Comscore senior media analyst, told Business Insider.

“Doctor Sleep” ultimately earned a catastrophic $14 million domestically over the weekend, coming in well below expectations and even finishing second at the box office behind Roland Emmerich’s “Midway.” With a $45 million budget, “Doctor Sleep” could lose at least $20 million for Warner Bros. when all is said and done, according to Deadline. 

The Hollywood Reporter reported on Monday that the studio “scrambled to understand what went so wrong” on Sunday morning. Warner Bros. did not immediately return a request for comment from Business Insider.

So, what did go so wrong for “Doctor Sleep”?

Younger audiences don’t care about ‘The Shining’

Horror is one of the most reliable genres at the box office in recent years, with hits like “Get Out,” “It,” and “A Quiet Place.” “Doctor Sleep” had that going for it, along with its connection to a horror classic — or so the industry thought.

The marketing for “Doctor Sleep” heavily pushed the movie’s connection to “The Shining,” Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror movie starring Jack Nicholson. The two posters below are clear examples.

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But Warner Bros. overestimated “The Shining’s” influence among younger audiences, according to box-office experts.

“Sometimes a cinematic connection that is meaningful to film buffs and movie fans — particularly from a movie that is over 30 years old — falls on deaf ears with younger viewers,” Dergarbedian said. 

“39 years was simply too long between sequels,” Jeff Bock, the Exhibitor Relations senior media analyst, told Business Insider.

Bock added that many viewers were likely confused as to whether “Doctor Sleep” was a sequel or a reboot, and were therefore turned off from the movie.

Warner Bros.’ other mistake was not releasing the movie earlier during the Halloween season, according to Bock.

“There was certainly a window to do so, and honestly, they fumbled it,” Bock said. “It cost them millions.”

“Doctor Sleep” is the latest in a series of box-office flops for Warner Bros. this year. Two of its high-budget sequels, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” and “It: Chapter Two,” performed way below their predecessors. And “The Goldfinch” and “The Kitchen” are two of the biggest flops of the year. 

SEE ALSO: ‘Midway’ $17.5 million opening weekend box office win marks lowest November champ in 20 years

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Google signs healthcare data and cloud computing deal with Ascension

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FILE PHOTO: An illuminated Google logo is seen inside an office building in Zurich, Switzerland December 5, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

(Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google signed its biggest cloud computing customer in healthcare yet, according to an announcement on Monday, gaining with the deal datasets that could help it tune potentially lucrative artificial intelligence tools.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported Google teaming up with Ascension to collect personal health-related information of millions of Americans across 21 states. (on.wsj.com/2q3WCer)

The partnership will also explore artificial intelligence and machine learning applications to help improve clinical effectiveness as well as patient safety, Ascension said in a statement.

Google Cloud Chief Executive Officer Thomas Kurian has made it a priority in his first year on the job to aggressively chase business from leaders in six industries, including healthcare.

The company previously had touted smaller healthcare clients, such as the Colorado Center for Personalized Medicine.

Google has spent several years developing artificial intelligence to automatically analyze MRI scans and other patient data to identify diseases and make predictions aimed at improving outcomes and reducing cost.

Ascension, which operates 150 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities across United States, said the partnership is in compliance with the U.S. data privacy act HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which safeguards medical information.

The Journal reported that the data involved in the project includes lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, complete with patient names and dates of birth.

The news follows an earlier announcement from Google that it would buy Fitbit Inc (FIT.N) for $2.1 billion, aiming to enter the wearables segment and invest in digital health.

Reporting by Paresh Dave in San Francisco and Ambhini Aishwarya in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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