Millennials probably won’t remember the pain of trying to communicate in 160 characters without the advantage of ‘txtspk’ on a keypad that had to be tapped numerous times just to get to one letter. They certainly won’t remember that going over the 160-character length would automatically create a second SMS that would be charged for. The language of the text has evolved dramatically, with cryptic abbreviations and acronyms playing a large part in allowing users to express emotion. Before emoticons became widely used, tone and innuendo were largely missing from texts – a message sent in all caps was generally seen as denoting anger, but that was it. People quite soon became proficient in the use of punctuation to create a smiley face and the like, which helped to some extent the emotional language of texting and messaging.
Acronyms and abbreviations also played a large part in the emergence of a new language, with parents around the world battling to understand their teenager’s ‘textspk’. Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbus University, John McWhorter says in an article in Time Magazine, “Texting is developing its own kind of grammar. Take LOL. It doesn’t actually mean ‘laughing out loud’ in a literal sense anymore. LOL has evolved into something much subtler and sophisticated and is used even when nothing is remotely amusing. Jocelyn texts ‘Where have you been?’ and Annabelle texts back ‘LOL at the library studying for two hours.’ LOL signals basic empathy between texters, easing tension and creating a sense of equality. Instead of having a literal meaning, it does something — conveying an attitude — just like the -ed ending conveys past tense rather than “meaning” anything. LOL, of all things, is grammar.”[i]
Messaging evolved even further – not satisfied with typing out abbreviations or acronyms, nor even with inserting emojis, memes and avatars became the favoured way to communicate. For example, instead of messaging ‘LOL at the library studying for two hours’, Jocelyn would insert an image or gif of someone buried under a pile of books with a ‘help’ sign sticking out, for example.
And then along came augmented reality merged with avatars. Augmented reality superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, while an avatar is an icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game, internet forum or similar. Although the earliest use of the word avatar in a computer game was in 1979, in a PLATO role-playing game called Avatar, the word is also derived from Hinduism, meaning a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth or an incarnate divine teacher.
Now, Samsung has introduced the AR Emoji, allowing users to create a highly accurate computer-generated image of themselves (avatars) that can express emotion, such as winks, laughter, anger, etc. A recent report indicated that 65% of Millennials communicate more digitally than in person.[ii] It’s a boon to anyone who uses messaging as their regular means of communication because it inserts augmented reality that enables real-time emotional expression.
Craige Fleischer, Vice President of Integrated Mobility for Samsung South Africa says, “The AR Emoji feature on the S9 and S9+ is an incredible innovation that speaks directly into how the Millennial generation like to communicate. Who wouldn’t want a personalised avatar to use in messaging? It really puts the conversation back into messaging platforms.”
But its more than just an avatar – the phone takes things one step further by using the front-facing camera to map more than 100 points in users’ face to build a highly realistic 3D avatar that corresponds to unique facial movements
“Users can turn their selfies into an emoji, creating an animated version of themselves that showcases their unique characteristics, emotions and expressions. The various sticker options enhance personalised expressions even further and with an astounding 128 GB storage available, as well as a micro-SD slot for an additional 400 MG, there’s almost no end to the versions users can create of themselves,” concludes Fleischer.
In addition to the 18 animated stickers, AR Emojis can be shared with third-party apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and can even be shared with people who don’t have an S9 or S9+, as well as other phone brands.
The changing face of digital communication has just become extremely personal and put the conversation and emotion back into the way we interconnect.