Emojikken, an interactive installation, was exhibited for three weeks at Tenjinyama Art Studio, Sapporo.
The piece invited visitors to try to have a conversation using only emoji, to see if the lighthearted symbols could form the basis of a universe, cross-culture, pictoral language.
There were over 10,000 interactions in the three week period, as Japanese, British, Australian, Malaysian and American people of all ages conversed via the interface.
Emojikken uses two 24” infra-red touch-panels attached to two Raspberry Pi 3s, and a central display attached to a third Pi.
Each Pi connects to a web-hosted Node.js SPA that either translates infra-red touch-panel interactions into messages, or outputs the messaging interface console for display.
Interactions are recorded in real-time using a Firebase database.
The interaction method for this piece was a really interesting discussion. Should it be a physical keyboard, with tactile keys, to add a familiarity and physicality to the piece?
Or perhaps, as we’re exploring the future, should we use a novel method, like arm- or hand-gesture control? This technique would also allow users to stare at each other directly when interacting, transforming the emoji into a sign-language-proxy.
In the end, it was both artistic and practical reasons that lead to the infra-red touch-panel, although various interaction methods were prototyped: infra-red, physical keyboards, Kinect, Leap Motion, capacitive touchscreen and even a strange webcam-pointed-at-a-translucent-screen interface.
The infra-red panel was chosen because it was (relatively) low-cost, reusable, easy to edit and, most importantly, displayed all 1500+ emoji at a glance.
To create the correct feeling and aesthetic, it was paramount to ensure that the visitors felt the overwhelming nature of the emoji selection process – hiding them behind a scrolling interface was never going cut it.