Facebook teams up with a Pixar animator to recreate emoticons

emoticonIt seems since the dawn of the Internet that the emoticon has always been there: Winking, smiling and, in many cases, plain confusing people altogether with its combination of characters that could, conceivably, translate into a face or something only recognizable as an inside joke. Let’s be honest: Emoticons be can somewhat frustrating – an emotional shorthand with good intent just sometimes doesn’t work. It’s no wonder, then, that Facebook is looking for a way to reapproach the idea – and, smartly, it’s doing so with the help of an illustrator who works at Pixar.

The illustrator in question is Matt Jones, whose resume also includes a stint as storyboard artist on the Academy Award-winning Wallace and Gromit cartoons. “Facebook was canny enough to realize that traditional emoticons are quite bland,” he told Buzzfeed of his role in creating the social network’s future emoticons. “At Pixar we consider emotional states every day with every drawing we make. Our work is informed by the years of study we do, constantly studying people’s gestures and expressions in real life.”

Jones’ stint at Facebook is currently at a freelance capacity, ending our dreams of a meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and Toy Story‘s Woody any time soon. He came to work with the social media giant via Dacher Keltner, who was already working with Facebook to revise emoticons in his role as the co-director of the University of California-Berkely’s Greater Good Science Program. Keltner provided Jones with a copy of Charles Darwin’s “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals,” which featured photographs and descriptions of human and animal emotion, with Jones tasked to visualize the abstract feelings.

“I was skeptical when I handed Matt these emotions, like gratitude, relief, awe, and guilt, which no one has studied,” Keltner said, but his skepticism was defeated when he saw Jones’ illustrations. “He does simple lines for facial muscle movements,” Keltner continues, “and when you look at them, you just say, ‘wow,’ because there is so much expressiveness [in each drawing.]”

The new characters will be lacking some facial features – noses and shoulders didn’t quite work on the necessary scale, apparently – but will have eyebrows, somewhat surprisingly; Jones credits this choice to his animation background, explaining that “as long as you have eyebrows, you are safe.” They may also be multicolored, another break with tradition, but even that is a fraught decision. “You don’t want to offend anyone. Colors will be a racial issue.”

For now, the characters are still in the development stage, with animation and a sense of space next on the agenda to be worked out. Whether or not Jones and Keltner’s work will recreate the basic form as we know it remains to be seen, but if nothing else, it should offer up an attractive alternative to the traditional winks, smiles, and confused mouths that look like number 3s.

News

Japanese billionaire splashes the cash to break retweet record

Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa has proved again he has a knack for self-publicity after launching a cash-prize contest to break the retweet record. Maezawa is the same man who is hoping to go to the moon with SpaceX.
Mobile

Unleash your inner artist with the best drawing apps for the iPad Pro

The best drawing apps for the iPad Pro turn Apple's robust tablet into a canvas worthy of a true artist. Here are 20 of our current favorites, whether you're looking to keep things simple or take your art to the next level.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Norsemen’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

Netflix debuts full, blood-soaked trailer for 'The Punisher' season 2

The Punisher is getting a second season on Netflix, with Jon Bernthal returning to play Marvel Comics' gun-toting antihero Frank Castle. Here's everything we know about season 2 of The Punisher so far.
Social Media

Looking to share some content? Here's how to repost on Instagram

Ever seen a cool picture on Instagram that you wanted to share? There's no official means of reposting content on Instagram, but there are a few workarounds. We break down the two most logical choices for getting the job done.
Photography

Photoshop fail gives Aussie leader two left feet in official portrait

The Aussie prime minister doesn't have two left feet, despite an official photograph of the leader and his family suggesting otherwise. It was, of course, a Photoshop fail, and the embarrassing snafu was soon trending on Twitter.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Social Media

Instagram now lets you post to multiple accounts in one tap

Instagram for iPhone now lets you post to multiple accounts at the same time. It's not the regram feature that many users have been asking for, but it could prove useful for some users who manage more than one profile.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Social Media

Invite your friends — Facebook Events can now be shared to Stories

Facebook is testing a way to make plans with friends to attend an event -- through Stories. By sharing an event in Facebook Stories, users can message other friends interested in the event to make plans to attend together.
Social Media

A quick swipe will soon let you keep bingeing YouTube on mobile devices

The YouTube mobile app has a new, faster way to browse: Swiping. Once the update rolls out, users can swipe to go to the next (or previous) video in the recommended list, even while viewing in full screen.
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.