How texting went visual: A brief introduction

In 1982, Scott Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University, noticed a problem faced by members of the science community.

When someone would make a sarcastic remark on online bulletin boards, most would fail to understand the joke, leading to irritating misunderstandings.

The reason for this, according to Fahlman, was that regular texting lacked the body language or tone of voice required to convey the right emotion. This insight led him to introduce the : – ) to indicate that the person is joking, and : – ( to indicate a serious tone.

This helped, to an extent, in bringing the tone of voice to a conversation.


Mobigraph emoji
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The next leap happened in 1999.

Tokyo-based software engineer Shigetaka Kurita was working with a telecom company to provide internet services on cellphones.  At that time, these phones had very small monochrome LCD screens which could only fit in 48 letters. Seeing the unpleasant use of text on these screens, Kurita was dismayed. He believed that a visual of a sun behind a cloud is a much better alternative to the comparatively text-heavy ‘Sunny with cloudy skies’.

So instead of waiting for a better system to come out, he decided to create one himself, painstakingly designing the individual symbols even though his education had not prepared him for something like this.

And that’s how the modern emojis were born.

Fast-forward 35 years.

Today, according to marketing platform Emogi, 92% of online users use emojis.

There are emojis to show cheekiness, to show disgust, to show embarrassment, and a lot more. Yet, even with such a vast array of emojis created by different companies, 75% of emoji users are still interested in having more emoji options.

What could be the reason behind this unending hunger for more ways to display emotions?

One possibility is that while emoji’s are now smartly depicting the correct tone of voice, they still haven’t cracked the idea of depicting body language yet. And since 70% of communication is body language and facial expression, it’s an aspect that will be essential to emotional, meaningful conversation.

That’s what we at Mobigraph are attempting to do with XPRESSO. Focussing on personalisation, facial expression, and body language, the GIFs created by our users are accentuated with cinematic visuals so that the user can tell a story with just a tap.

And with 110K Monthly Active Users and more than 12 million GIF impressions per month, we hope to be the next big leap in visual communication.

And there’s a lot more to come.

While facial recognition, AR, and other technology develops to a point that it becomes a tool and not a toy, we might soon see things we never even thought possible.

All of this, without losing that essential human touch which makes every piece of communication endearing, emotional, or memorable— or all of them together.

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