Emoji bots on Twitter range from the useful to the artful. There's @botmoji, which sends you the emojipedia definition of any emoji you tweet at it and @thetinygallery, which elevates emoji by placing them into a tiny art exhibit. But the 👑 for most delightful emoji bot may go to @NYPLemoji, which scours through the archives of the New York Public Library to return an image that matches your emoji.
The bot is just about a month old and seems to have an endless supply of well matched images, which comes as no surprise when you consider the data set. The library's digital collection has over 692,000 images from which to draw from, and it hits the nail on the head every time.
Even when I tried to ask it for something I suspected wouldn't be found in the archive, like say, a space invader, it returned a clever doppleganger.
This bot is a fun way to further bust open the potential of each emoji. As I've said before, I'm a big fan of using images to define emoji meaning. This allows a visual language to remain free of words, making the possibility of each character unlimited. Take the dancing twins, for instance. The images returned are not just two of a kind, but they capture the whimsy of the emoji as well.
Whimsy is not something artificial intelligence has historically been good at. Emojini, which reverse engineers this process to deliver emoji that match an uploaded photo, had to develop a rather robust neural net to solve this problem.
The secret to NYPL Emoji Bot is that it's actually carefully curated by NYPL Digital Producer Lauren Lampasone. It should come as no surprise that there is a well organized spreadsheet of hand selected images behind a bot that was born in the library. Without a human touch, the uncanny accuracy of this kind of reply would be difficult to pull off.
NYPL Emoji Bot gives people more ways to search the collection and lends it some youth appeal. It is also a good reminder that the meaning behind each little emoji character draws on the symbology of centuries of images. And who better to prove that than the New York Public Library?
Cara Rose DeFabio is a pop addicted, emoji fluent, transmedia artist, focusing on live events as an experience designer for Real Future.