Skip to Content

This App Knows Just the Right Emoji for Any Occasion

Having trouble finding the perfect emoji to express yourself?
June 27, 2016
Dango, which works on Android smartphones, uses deep learning to consider what you and your conversation partner are typing and then suggest related emoji you may want to add.

Emoji add pictorial sparkle to typed conversations; an image of a tiny slice of pizza or a cheeseburger, for instance, makes a simple question like “What’s for dinner?” a little more fun to ask. Hunting for the right one to express a more complex thought, though, can leave you feeling a bit like the Face with Open Mouth and Cold Sweat character.

Dango, a new Android app from the Toronto-based startup Whirlscape, aims to make it easier to sift through the ever-growing array of choices. There are well over 1,000 characters, plus many variations, according to the group that manages emoji, the Unicode Consortium. This month alone, 72 have been added.

The Dango app is named for a Japanese dessert consisting of sweet dumpling balls on a skewer (and yes, there’s an emoji for it). It sits atop other communication apps like Slack, Snapchat, or the built-in texting app on your phone. It suggests emoji that it thinks fit well with what you’re typing or in response to what someone just typed to you. You tap on the suggestion to add to the conversation.

Rather than simply coming up with word associations (such as a chicken emoji if you type “chicken”), Dango uses deep-learning techniques to try to figure out what whole sentences are expressing and then give you suggestions it thinks are related. For instance, if you type “She said yes!” Dango will show you the emoji for a ring and a bride with veil, among others.

Xavier Snelgrove, Whirlscape’s cofounder and chief technology officer, says Dango has been trained by scanning posts on Instagram, Reddit, and Twitter. The app only works on Android phones for now, since Apple doesn’t allow software developers to build such a tool, Snelgrove says; if it were on the iPhone, it would have to be part of a keyboard app. Separately, Whirlscape does sell a keyboard app called Minuum that includes emoji prediction, but it’s doing simple word association.

 

Keep Reading

Most Popular

The Steiner tree problem:  Connect a set of points with line segments of minimum total length.
The Steiner tree problem:  Connect a set of points with line segments of minimum total length.

The 50-year-old problem that eludes theoretical computer science

A solution to P vs NP could unlock countless computational problems—or keep them forever out of reach.

section of Rima Sharp captured by the LRO
section of Rima Sharp captured by the LRO

The moon didn’t die as early as we thought

Samples from China’s lunar lander could change everything we know about the moon’s volcanic record.

conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other
conceptual illustration of a heart with an arrow going in on one side and a cursor coming out on the other

Forget dating apps: Here’s how the net’s newest matchmakers help you find love

Fed up with apps, people looking for romance are finding inspiration on Twitter, TikTok—and even email newsletters.

ASML machine
ASML machine

Inside the machine that saved Moore’s Law

The Dutch firm ASML spent $9 billion and 17 years developing a way to keep making denser computer chips.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.