New tech allows users to search YouTube using emoji

Posted on October 29, 2015


A team at the University of Amsterdam has created an interface that allows users to search content on video sharing site YouTube by typing in emojis.

The ideograms, which started life in Japan and literally translate to “picture character” are similar to emoticons, have seen their popularity spread as mobile phone handsets include them in their text keyboards. Examples include a variety of expressions, animals, food and transport; the latest update to Apple’s mobile operating system even included a universally-understood rude gesture.

The authors of an MIT Technology of Emoji2Video report stated that emojis were an obvious choice in trawling through large data sets similar to YouTube’s, largely due to being able to “transcend language, age and culture boundaries”.

As a knock-on effect of this, emojis diminish the “semantic gap” between visual media and the vocabulary and grammar of the English language, the report says. They are also appropriate for use on smart watches, which have smaller displays than smartphones.

Emoji2Video uses 46,000 YouTube videos so far, and has labelled them with a combination of 385 different pictograms that are related to not only their titles, but also their content. When the testing team inputted emojis into the search interface, it returned a list of relevant videos ranked in order of relevancy, along with a summary of their contents in emoji form.

One example MIT cited was a search using emojis for a bicycle and a bikini; a video showing two women in beachwear washing a Harley Davidson motorbike was the number one result.

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