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Meet Dango, an emoji suggestion app that uses deep learning


DangoA new app from Toronto’s Dango can be filed solidly under solving an issue that many, particularly those over the age of 30, probably didn’t even know existed.

Here’s the problem: you are typing a text on your phone. You want to find the perfect emoji to summarize how you are feeling. Your phone has a ton of emojis but you can’t find the right one without scrolling through an endless list and losing the moment. “Hearts” (the top emoji used on Twitter last year) won’t do. Neither will “Joy”, “Unamused”, “Heart Eyes”, or “Relaxed”, which round out the top five most popular.

What to do? Enter Toronto-based Dango. Dango bolts on to existing messaging apps like Kik, Instagram and Twitter to help users quickly find emojis, gifs and stickers. It purportedly learns as it goes to present an ever more relevant collections of options so you aren’t left feeling like a poop emoji.

“Neural networks have become the tool of choice for a variety of tough computer-science problems: Facebook uses them to identify faces in photos, Google uses them to identify everything in photos,” says the company. “Apple uses them to figure out what you’re saying to Siri, and IBM uses them for operationalizing business unit synergies. It’s all very impressive. But what about the real problems? Can neural networks help you find the emoji when you really need it?”


The answer appears to be no. At least at first.

Here’s what happened when I tried Dango and typed in what I was going to be doing this evening. I got a block and a circle. Not a lot to do with hockey….

dango hockey
And here’s the response I got when I tried to talk about what I was eating. Is that corn?
dango peanuts
Finally, I wrote down what I was doing at the exact moment. Hmm…
dango father
So not a great showing. Maybe it’s the topics I picked. Maybe millennials don’t play hockey, eat peanuts or talk to their fathers-in-law. No judgement here, those just might be unhip things. So let’s try something I know millennials do…
dango video
Okay, a little better.
And I know they do this, even if they aren’t chilling.
dango netflix
Granted, Dango is just getting going and it probably shouldn’t be judged based on what it has now. The company even devotes a big part of the real estate of its website to soliciting new artists to create emojis. The real question is whether or not there is demand for a mature product that does what Dango purports to.

The answer to that question appears to be “absolutely”. Millennials get the blame for some of the more cringeworthy trends these days, but the use of emojis is actually something that has caught on with other age groups. In fact, people 65 and older are actually the most likely to use emojis these days.
There’s even a school of thought that emojis might represent an elevated form of communication.

“Scholars seem to agree that emoticons are graphic signs, which are used to indicate an emotional state,” wrote the authors of a 2014 study. “Most of these studies assume that emoticons are used to compensate for the lack of nonverbal communication cues, such as facial expressions, intonation, gestures, and other bodily indicators, in CMC [computer-mediated communication].

A block and a picture of corn doesn’t exactly pick up the nonverbal cues I intend when I tell someone I am playing hockey or eating peanuts, but give Dango a few months and it could be a seamless and extremely useful tool.

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About The Author /

Cantech Letter founder and editor Nick Waddell has lived in five Canadian provinces and is proud of his country's often overlooked contributions to the world of science and technology. Waddell takes a regular shift on the Canadian media circuit, making appearances on CTV, CBC and BNN, and contributing to publications such as Canadian Business and Business Insider.
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