The Future of Emojis

The way we express ourselves is evolving. We live in an era where you can have 3D animated emojis of either yourself or a classic emoji character. It used to take Hollywood hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a similar effect, and this can be replicated on your phone at a whim. Ten years ago, that concept would have been impossible, and if the past ten years are any indication of the next ten, we’re in for a wild ride.

A Brief History

We’ve been expressing emotion in text using symbols since the 1800s; however, it wasn’t until 1982 when the first ASCII emoticons were developed by Scott Fahlman that we began to standardize this expression. Over time, as computers could handle more languages and information, we began to see variants from different countries like Japan (Kaomojis) and South Korea. Then, in 1999, Japan began to incorporate emojis (ideograms and smileys) into their smartphones. As these icons grew in popularity, their base coding became standardized amongst mobile operating systems and even computers, officially making them part of the way we communicate with our friends.

As we’ve discussed in the past, visual communication is becoming increasingly important. In a world where over 6 billion text messages and over 200 billion emails are sent each day, images help set the tone of a conversation and can help you communicate more efficiently and effectively. That’s why the future of these simple images is so important to how we see the world.

Back to the Future

We’re also moving to a world where real-time conversations extend well beyond text and email. Video conferencing equipment used to be expensive and require a dedicated Internet connection. Now, we can communicate through any number of web conferencing tools for free, provided we have a mobile device or laptop with internet access. As a result, companies are trying to figure out the best way to take advantage of this new space. There are two schools of thought that dominate the industry: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

The downside is that right now a lot of what we see happening in technology feels a little gimmicky and even a little outdated. VR, which seems to be a product of the 90s that never took off (see Virtual Boy), is coming back into the limelight as developers have created headsets that overcome many of the limitations of the past. In fact, Facebook saw enough value in the hardware to purchase Oculus for $2 billion.

Augmented Reality (AR) is also coming to the forefront with Apple developing games and applications that take advantage of advanced hardware and enable you to create awesome animated emojis. Samsung isn’t far behind with their own take on AR emojis. While many will argue that Samsung’s take is relatively creepy, they do represent a major step forward for a device you can hold in your hand.

The challenge with both of these technologies is that there is currently no way to “look cool” using them.

Additionally, integrating them into your daily routine is a challenge unless you’re a hardcore gamer or really enjoy holding your phone in front of you at all times.

Style isn’t standing in the way of major social networks, though. In fact, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram already have many AR features, and more are coming. Snapchat just recently announced the ability to create AR stickers and emojis, as well as the ability for designers to independently create them. Last year, Facebook started using AR for its Facebook and Instagram stories. While this mostly had to do with AR face filters, the platform is already moving beyond that to VR experiences designed for Oculus. The platform is already available for testing and development, and it represents another big step forward in Virtual Reality.

So, what does this all mean for the future of the emoji? It means that there are new platforms to share animated stickers, icons and emojis. As Facebook recently showed us, their plans for VR and AR includes new ways to interact with your environment, and much of that is done through augmented or virtual stickers.

Images are an important aspect of communication. Stickers and emojis aren’t going away just because our communications are evolving beyond text. In fact, as our world becomes enhanced with digital and virtual overlays, these images will help us continue to communicate in new ways that we may not have even considered yet.

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