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New Study Finds That People Interpret Emojis Differently

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Emojis like smiley faces, thumbs up icons, and random fruits and vegetables often replace words in digital conversations. But instead of making conversing easier, emojis cause a lot of miscommunication, in part because not everyone interprets their meaning in the same way, according to a new study shared by The Verge.

For the study [PDF], researchers of GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota surveyed online participants and asked them to rate the sentiment of 22 of the most popular human-looking emojis. A score of -5 meant that the emoji was very negative, while a score of 5 meant that it was very positive.

They found that though some emojis look completely different from one operating system to the next, that wasn't the only distinction that led to different interpretations among participants. The same emoji was read more positively on some platforms (Samsung, Google, LG, etc.) than others (Apple) because of the change in design. However, even when participants were shown emojis within the same operating systems, there were a range of interpretations. For instance, some saw the "grinning" Apple emoji as positive, while other saw it as negative.

GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota

"We found that for 9 of our 22 emoji, the average difference in emotion rating between two platforms was greater than 2 points on our -5-to-5 scale," Hannah Miller of the GroupLens research lab wrote.

Miller added that some emojis not only represented different emotions, but meant completely different concepts to different people. One example: the emoji that shows two raised hands. "When seeing this Apple emoji rendering, participants used words like 'stop' and 'clap,' whereas they described the Google version of the same emoji character with words like 'praise' and 'hand,'" Miller said.

So, how can we make communication with emojis more effective? The researchers offered up possible solutions, including alerting users that their emoji may appear differently on a different platform and standardizing emojis across platforms. Still, that would only fix half of the problem. They acknowledge that users could still have different translations of the same image.

So the next time someone sends you a grinning face or praise hands, you may want to consider what you know about the sender before jumping to conclusions.

[h/t The Verge]

Images via GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota

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Courtesy Umbrellium
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Design
These LED Crosswalks Adapt to Whoever Is Crossing
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Courtesy Umbrellium

Crosswalks are an often-neglected part of urban design; they’re usually just white stripes on dark asphalt. But recently, they’re getting more exciting—and safer—makeovers. In the Netherlands, there is a glow-in-the-dark crosswalk. In western India, there is a 3D crosswalk. And now, in London, there’s an interactive LED crosswalk that changes its configuration based on the situation, as Fast Company reports.

Created by the London-based design studio Umbrellium, the Starling Crossing (short for the much more tongue-twisting STigmergic Adaptive Responsive LearnING Crossing) changes its layout, size, configuration, and other design factors based on who’s waiting to cross and where they’re going.

“The Starling Crossing is a pedestrian crossing, built on today’s technology, that puts people first, enabling them to cross safely the way they want to cross, rather than one that tells them they can only cross in one place or a fixed way,” the company writes. That means that the system—which relies on cameras and artificial intelligence to monitor both pedestrian and vehicle traffic—adapts based on road conditions and where it thinks a pedestrian is going to go.

Starling Crossing - overview from Umbrellium on Vimeo.

If a bike is coming down the street, for example, it will project a place for the cyclist to wait for the light in the crosswalk. If the person is veering left like they’re going to cross diagonally, it will move the light-up crosswalk that way. During rush hour, when there are more pedestrians trying to get across the street, it will widen to accommodate them. It can also detect wet or dark conditions, making the crosswalk path wider to give pedestrians more of a buffer zone. Though the neural network can calculate people’s trajectories and velocity, it can also trigger a pattern of warning lights to alert people that they’re about to walk right into an oncoming bike or other unexpected hazard.

All this is to say that the system adapts to the reality of the road and traffic patterns, rather than forcing pedestrians to stay within the confines of a crosswalk system that was designed for car traffic.

The prototype is currently installed on a TV studio set in London, not a real road, and it still has plenty of safety testing to go through before it will appear on a road near you. But hopefully this is the kind of road infrastructure we’ll soon be able to see out in the real world.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Live Smarter
How to Make Sure Your Cell Phone Receives Emergency Alerts
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Thanks to smartphones, we’re more plugged into the world than ever before. Some of us receive notifications for everything from Amber Alerts to trending news stories, so it makes sense that we’d also depend on our phones to alert us to emergencies in our neighborhoods. But as The Daily Dot reports, relying on your cell phone alone for such news might leave you in a dangerous situation.

Unlike Amber Alerts, local notifications for natural disasters like wildfires don’t operate on a broad alert system. If counties were to contact every single resident every time a specific area was threatened, it would lead to traffic jams and unnecessary panic, putting more lives at risk. So instead, the police only contact people in their database that live in the affected location.

The Reverse 911 law allows law enforcement to contact you at your home in case of emergencies. If you have a landline you can expect to get the call there, but because the law was enacted before the age of cell phones, receiving a call anywhere else isn’t guaranteed. To make sure your county knows to contact you on your cell phone, you need to reach out to them and ask for that number to be listed as your primary mode of contact. Just over half of all households in the country use cell phones for all personal phone communications, which means that most Americans need to opt in to receive life-saving emergency notifications.

Fortunately, getting your cell number into your county’s database isn’t hard. You can starting by searching your county’s name and “emergency alert” online. There’s no uniform system across the U.S., but on Los Angeles County’s emergency alert page, for example, residents are asked to indicate their name, address, phone number, and the type of alerts they wish to receive. This information can be updated at any time—so if you get a new phone number, make sure your local police department is one of the first to know.

[h/t The Daily Dot]

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