Today, Curalate is excited to share with the world our newest creation – the Emojini 3000. Put simply, the Curalate Emojini guesses what emojis best match whatever photos you throw its way. It works with Instagram. It works with the photos on your phone. It works with pictures on your desktop. It works with Google Images. And it works with Slack. Because, Slack.

Examples of the Emojini 3000 in action:

emojini 3000 - examples

While the Emojini 3000 has no practical business application to what Curalate does today (sorry investors), it is an example of how Curalate works with the latest technologies to maintain an innovative edge. In short, projects like Emojini 3000 are like concept cars – they allow us to experiment with technologies that may eventually make their way into our platform.

So, if you’re tired of the tyranny of productivity and can’t wait to see if your photos are ? or ?, check out what the Emojini 3000 grants you.

Soooooooooooo, why emojis? These tiny pictographs in our phone’s keyboard have become an important form of communication. Even Oxford Dictionary named ? the word of the year for 2015. Though maybe not worth a thousand words, each emoji evokes a much richer response for the reader than boring old text. Duh: people communicate visually.

But what do emojis mean? Inspired by Instagram’s textual analysis of emoji hashtags, we set out to help answer this question in a more visual way. Our core question is simple: if people use emojis to describe images, is there a connection between the emoji and the visual content of the image? For some emojis like ? or ?, we expect that the emoji describes the content of the image. But what about a less obvious emoji like ? or ✊?

The answer to these questions comes from a computer vision discipline known as “deep learning.” If you’d like to get into the technical details, our Curalabs team posted a whole write up about it. Otherwise, just read on to explore some of the most interesting findings.

Insights

So, what do emojis mean? One of the fascinating things about the results are the visual characteristics that become associated with each emoji. Some of our favorites can be found here:

PIZZA IS UNIVERSAL

As expected, semantic associations are well captured. This is primarily due to users’ associating tags with their visual counterparts. Pictures of pizza, for instance, are strongly associated with the pizza emoji ?:

emojini 3000 - pizza

EMOTIONAL RESPONSES AND SOCIAL TRENDS

Many emojis may not have a clear meaning in terms of a traditional language, but are still associated with specific visual content.

Face With Tears of Joy ?, for example, is associated with images of memes:

emojini - tears of joy

What’s fascinating here is that the Emojini 3000 can apply an emotional response even though it has no knowledge of the context or subject matter. This is the AI equivalent of a baby laughing at The Daily Show: it doesn’t understand why it’s funny.

Also of interest is when an emoji is co-opted by a social trend. Raised fist ✊, for example, is described by Emojipedia as commonly “used as a celebratory gesture.” The Instagram community, however, has associated it with dirt bikes:

emojini 3000 - fist

Similarly, the syringe ? is often used for tattoos:

emojini 3000 - syringe

We even see examples of brands snagging emojis. The open hands ? has been snagged by Red Bull. (We can only assume it’s because they look like wings.)

emojini 3000 - open hands

Thankfully, other emoji have become visually associated with themselves. The ? emoji top results:

emojini 3000 - poop

?, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

What’s really interesting about these results is that society has assigned specific meanings to emojis, even when they weren’t the intention of the emoji creator. This makes the Curalate Emojini 3000 all the more fun: even unexpected results tell a story about how the Instagram community views a specific image. The fact that such attributed themes have clear visual cues indicates that emojis themselves are evolving into their own visual language.