Facebook Wants to Reinvent the Emoticon Using a Pixar Illustrator and Science

Facebook is doing a scientific study of the lowly emoticon

By on February 9th, 2013 18:11 GMT

The emotion has quite a history, yet, unlike other things popular in the early web, it survived and flourished. It makes sense too, everyone understands an emotion and it's a very easy way of expressing emotions over the web, something plain text can't quite do.

Facebook, as the biggest place for online socialization, is obviously quite fond of the emoticon, so fond in fact that it's working on revamping it with the help of science.

The company has tasked Pixar story illustrator Matt Jones to come up with a new set of emoticons for simple things like laughter and negation to things like maternal love.

The idea is to create emoticons with a little more spark and a little more, well, emotion. But it's more than just a redesign, in fact, everything is highly scientifical.

Jones got to work with Facebook on emoticons via Dacher Keltner a UC Berkeley psychologist who was already collaborating with Facebook on the subject.

Keltner asked Jones to provide some emoticons for basic emotions, but he liked what he saw so he then asked the illustrator to come up with versions for all the emotions listed by Charles Darwin in his The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

Keltner then tests the designs with people all over the world to see if the expressions translate to the various cultures. BuzzFeed got ahold of some of the early designs, they're quite a lot better than most emoticons, but they're nowhere near final.

Jones is experimenting with several new ideas or old ideas in new ways, he is looking at ways of using colors beyond the classic yellow.

He is also thinking about three-dimensional emoticons which would cover a broader spectrum of expressions. Finally, even simple animations may be used. In the end though, it all has to work within a few pixels as these emoticons won't be very big, probably the biggest challenge.

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