Posts Tagged communication

Can emoji innovation progress society?

While text messaging has revolutionized interpersonal communication over the past two decades, it also reduces capacity to gauge nuance and subtlety, in the same way face-to-face interaction, telephonic or even long-form correspondence allows.

 

Facial expressions, tone and pitch assist our understanding and appreciation of meaning when conversing. Texting – while convenient – can remove that added layer of depth.

Enter the emoji: a picture text used to clarify intended meaning and substitute for expression and tone lost in technological contact.

 

To date, the universally utilized emoji has almost exclusively been the domain of private communications and social media platforms. Given this, use of them in alternative contexts, such as workplace emails, can be frowned upon or even actively disallowed.

 

But while we as a society may form opinions about those who use emojis, and the frequency and manner in which they use them (even though we do it too), they may bring benefit to business interests that go way beyond our personal engagement with such communication.

 

Businesses and marketing agencies know that, to effectively convince someone of the value of a particular product or service, the message conveyed must be comprehensible and conceptual.

 

Emoji is, whether we want it or not, a universally recognized language that all of us can understand and appreciate. And its potential for success in professional and even governmental contexts is all but untapped.

 

Market researchers across the board are now utilizing such methodology; Antedote, for one, recognizes the value of popular culture and colloquial vernacular to extrapolate genuine, authentic anthropological responses, which then provide more in-depth and accurate insights from surveyed subjects.

 

New York-based not for profit Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recently launched billboards which, to the untrained eye, appear to be gobbledygook but, to teens targeted by the ads, would convey crucial messages about drug use, smoking, drinking, body image, sex, bullying, among other issues.

 

Pain charts employ emoticons to deduce the degree to which patients suffer, allowing medical practitioners in hospitals and clinics to more effectively offer treatment.

 

Emojis can even serve as a base springboard for further insight: exposing subjects to a selection of emojis, and having them choose a handful, can help extract the innermost thoughts and feelings of individuals, allowing for greater direction with research.

 

The breadth of such images are expanding extensively to now account for a myriad sexual orientations, family units and gender identities, as well as – arguably crude – ethnic characteristics. Increased resonance through greater identification with emojis can only aid research processes.

 

Such expansion is also seeing images digress into the interactive sphere. Stickers and filters, being made popular by Snapchat and the newest iPhone, are further provoking engagement that speaks to our base emotions and instincts.

 

Emojis are already starting to be adopted in communication between colleagues and clients in the business world and, with the rise and increased use of platforms such as Slack, Asana and Trillo, one must ask: where else could this trend possibly go? Could technological jargon penetrate professional contexts and streamline communications as such?

 

Could, for example, emojis be used as a support mechanism for children with written and verbal speech difficulties, to help them better communicate?

 

Could governments utilize emojis to advocate economic policy developments, as a way to avoid institutional jargon that goes over the head of the average voter?

 

While some may browbeat about declining societal intellect via such campaigns, innovative businesses can, and already are, recognizing the usefulness of emojis in transcending communication barriers and engaging with an intended audience in ways previous efforts may have failed. If emojis can contribute to efforts addressing and raising awareness of sociocultural and political problems, domestically or abroad, would that be a bad thing?

 

Innovative practices are catching up – especially when dealing with millennials – and big business and government should ensure they are not too far behind.

 

Emoji is an inter-lingual digital language, and while its usefulness in tackling issues is still in infancy, its potential for innovative marketing and business success should not be ignored.

 

By Anne Lacey

Founding Partner

Introjii – Insight into the World of Introverts

Insights Introjii

These days much of our communication exists at a distance. It’s been this way for a long time now, but this hasn’t replaced our need for visuals in communication. When you isolate a person’s voice or words, it’s tough to get your point across.

I was excited to learn about Introji the other day through Fast Company. Introji is an app in development that will soon give introverts a way to communicate through texted emojis.

As an introvert myself, I immediately saw the value in this. Some times I’m at a loss for words when a friend invites me out at night, but I’ve been gone since the crack of dawn and in meetings for work all day, or I’ve been out of town all weekend and need to let people know I have plans, even if these plans include finally spending some time at my apartment reading a book.

I’m curious to see what other forms of visual communication will emerge over the next years. In the research world, it’s incredibly important to speak to people in a way they understand, and let them answer in a way that suits them. One of the ways we talk to respondents at antedote is through our digital ethnography platform. You can gain rich insights from people when you ask them to share their candid thoughts and feelings through video, pictures, and drawings. In research, a pictures really is worth a thousand words.

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antedote is a strategic insights and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, and we have helped many of the world’s leading brands like Pepsico and Unilever to garner deeper insights about their consumers and identify opportunities to grow their brands. 

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When technology meets functional and social needs

Jibo

More than a decade ago, I was deeply engrossed in the movie Bicentennial Man (RIP the great Robin Williams). I remember watching the bewildered faces of the two children as their father brings home a life-size family droid who would live with them and help them with tasks around the house.

I recall doubling over in laughter as one of the daughters tells the droid to jump out the window of the second floor of their house. Unable to detect her sarcasm and her ill-intentions, Robin William’s character does exactly as he is told, and well… jumps out the window. On the other hand, the younger daughter empathizes with the droid, and took it on as a playmate and trusted companion.

It’s 2014, and that sci-fi fantasy of the “family robot” is becoming much more of reality, and we see more and more research into designing social technology that plays to our emotions, like the younger daughter of Bicentennial Man.

Like many people, I’m excited to see the latest innovations in robotics. For instance, the launch of Jibo on Indiegogo a few weeks ago. Jibo can see, speak, hear, learn, and do a variety of tasks to help you around the house. He can order your favorite take-out dish for you, he can tell you fantastical stories, and he can even follow you around the room and snap your photo using facial recognition.

What I most love about Jibo is however, that it doesn’t try to look like a human. As seen in its promo video, Jibo has no arms or legs, but the smooth, sleek feel of Eve from Wall-E. He swivels around and has cute animations, which convey emotions and empathy. It is remarkable to see what animation studios like Pixar do in the 2D world, in the 3D world: bringing to life otherwise inanimate objects.

One of my favorite TED talks, by MIT Media Lab’s Guy Hoffman, called “Robots with Soul” explores this idea of robots that are well…less “robotic.”  With his studies in animation and acting, he set on making robots exhibit the more fluid movements of no-verbal communication that humans have. He developed a speaker that bobs his “head” to the beat of the music he is playing to give the illusion that he is enjoying the music being played. And in his studies, although the people know the robots are machines, they look at, interact with, and speak about the robots as if they were other people. “He definitely enjoys this jam.”

Even TED Senior Fellow Aparna Rao explores how you can evoke emotions from non-sentient objects. In her art pieces, inanimate objects without faces react to their surroundings, in an often humorous and entertaining way. In one of her pieces, art on the wall starts to swivel around slowly then quickly, until it senses that someone has entered the room, then they go back to the original places. The timing and movements of the pieces give the illusion that the art is being “mischievous” when no one is looking.

Human emotions are extremely complicated and are always communicated non-verbally. Paul Ekman, a professor at UCSF, and affectionately called the “best human lie detector in the world” pioneered the research into human emotions and found that humans across the world use certain combinations of facial muscles to convey emotions. These muscles will always move, (it would take years of practice to suppress and control these muscles), and it would take an expert, like Ekman, to discern these non-verbal cues with the naked eye.  I would love to see robots who not only personify human behavior, but who would be able to detect subtle emotions by picking up on these “micro-isms” and respond appropriately given the situation. “Are you feeling okay, Sabrina? How about I text your friend Lea if she is free to go out to the movies tonight? I think it would be great for you to get out of the house and hang out with friends.”

Technology have long been designed to move/act based on the service they were providing. And they had that unnatural “robotic” feel that reminded us that we are interacting with a machine.  It is fascinating now to see robots, like Jibo, take a step beyond meeting mere functional needs to becoming social entities that can play to our emotions, interact with us in a more natural way, and be perceived as more of a valued companion that meets real social needs. For more on Jibo, check out the video below.