The hotly contested digital sticker space has a new face in it today: Sm@rt Stickrs is a startup that’s aiming to elbow its way into your messaging affections with a new type of emoji that gets smarter the more you use it. That’s right, these are not just any emoticons. These are artificially intelligent emoticons.
“Initially our stickers look like any other emoji, with the same cartoon features and limited emotional range. But take a closer look and you’ll find yourself wondering whether that winking smilie or time-out gesture is actually conveying something far more subtle and uniquely personal to you,” says Sm@rt Stickrs co-founder Dorian Gray.
“That’s because Smart Stickers have an inner life — thanks to our unique machine learning algorithms. Bottom line: these stickers are deeply human.”
“Every time you use a Sm@rt Stickr, it gets smarter,” he continues. “Our platform does this by analyzing the linguistic context in which the sticker is used — so, for instance, when you send a kissy emoji our sentiment analysis engine looks at your preceding messages to build up an understanding of the motivations that culminated in you sending that kissy emoji. Maybe you were trying to convey the strength of your physical desire for another person. Or were you in fact mocking a friend with a running joke? Or just expressing gratitude to a family member who agreed to feed the cat while you were away?
“With Sm@rt Stickrs a far richer emotional range is conveyed than is possible with standard emoticons thanks to micro-changes in emoji expressions generated by our patent pending adaptive algorithms.”
But isn’t that much the same as an animated GIF?
Not so, says Gray. Unlike repetitive GIFs, Smart Stickers evolve organically and dynamically along with your relationships. You also won’t see them change or animate. Their adaptations are calculated on Sm@rt Stickrs’ back end — and are only gradually revealed to the end user, over time.
Think of these stickers as akin to Tamagotchi. Once you decide to unleash one into your messaging stream, you and whoever you sent it to is responsible for what it grows into. Gray explains that the Sm@rt Stickrs platform continues to parses subsequent messages — to “ingest” any reactions to its ‘living emoji’ — so they continue to develop along with your personal relationships.
In other words, the emoji you send or receive at noon might not be the same emoji you see later on that evening. In fact it’s highly likely that the exasperated smilie you send your significant other will diverge entirely from the same emoji sent to your friend who’s always late to stuff. One of those stickers should embody the history of the most important relationship in your life. The other will encapsulate beer-tinged frustration. There’s no comparison between the two — so why should you be forced to use the same crudely drawn symbol, argues Gray?
“You’ll never want to dumb down your messaging with such yellow-faced risus sardonicus ever again,” he says. “Our philosophy engine interprets all the textual data that contextualizes each emoji so every sticker becomes individual, personalized to you and your usage.
“With Sm@rt Stickrs, you’ll never see the same emoji twice. Although at first glance that cheesy grin emoji might appear as crudely drawn as ever, take a closer look and you’ll find yourself wondering whether its lips aren’t curled into rather more of a sneer. Look again and you could find yourself wondering if its dimples aren’t especially cocksure and self-satisfied. The spectra of emotions you’ll be able to convey is limited only by your imagination.”
“Each of these emoji is on a unique journey with you and your life. Nothing is forbidden; all expressions are possible,” he adds.
“A new, rich and visual language of the emotions will emerge. You’ll find yourself wondering what each emoji is ‘feeling’, and marveling at how its micro-expressions convey the subtle nuance of your communications — reflecting the expressiveness of every one of your personal relationships. And you’ll be truly excited to see how each sticker grows with you and your friends. It’s a journey you’re all on together.”
Although there is no shortage of existing social services serving up stickers these days, Sm@rt Stickrs is confident its emotionally aware emoji have the algorithmic chops and expressive edge to stand out among all those dumb parodies of human emotions.
“I’ve always found traditional smilies — especially the winking smilie — to be vaguely sinister, in any case,” adds Gray. “But now, after sharing my messaging with truly emotional emoji, I find ‘normal’ emoticons to be entirely vacuous and devoid of meaning. I can barely look at their vacant eyes without feeling like I’m going to projectile vomit. Or having an unbearable urge to slap myself rhythmically on the forehead.
“Sometimes I even find myself involuntarily sticking my tongue out and screwing up one eyebrow. Or rolling around on the floor throwing my head back and holding my sides, gasping at how entirely devoid of human warmth they really are.
“This one time I even had an urge to put on a red dress and do some flamenco. It was very odd. After that I had to run to the toilet pretty quick. I think I must have had too much curry.”
Sm@rt Stickrs has raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Catharsis Ventures, whose general partner, Aris Totle, sits on their board, along with advisors Agrippa the Sceptic, Albert of Saxony III, Ludwig Binswanger, Radulphus Brito, Justus Buchler, Buddhaghosa, Claude Buffier, Jacob Burckhardt, Calcidius, Thomas Chubb, Chrysippus, Cratylus, Cyrano de Bergerac, Eudoxus of Cnidus, Pope Gregory I, Moses Hess, Hui Shi, Jørgen Jørgensen, Ko Hung, Saul Kripke, Lucretius, John Major, Odo Marquard, Numenius of Apamea, Olympiodorus the Younger, Patañjali, Peter of Spain, Philo the Dialectician, Proclus, Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, Pseudo-Grosseteste, Samuel Pufendorf, R.R. Rockingham Gill, Simplicius of Cilicia, Ulrich of Strasbourg, Wang Bi, Xenophanes of Colophon, and Pythagoras.
“Sm@rt Stickrs’ unique mix of social messaging personalization really adheres to the mobile tech zeitgeist playbook,” adds Totle, chewing the end off his cigar and spitting it into the bowels of an ashtray shaped like the Peloponnesus. “It’s textbook stuff. Sure I used to think emoji were really dumb. You know, the kind of stuff my kids get obsessed with for a weekend and then throw in the trash after I buy them something more expensive — like the Apple Watch. But then I realized how much money we could mint by getting people to pay for pixels they normally get for free and that’s when I got so excited I pulled out a party hat and tooted on some poppers I’d been saving for a really big exit. Sometimes you just gotta let it out.”
Sm@rt Stickrs is not Gray’s only startup. His earlier business, KatKast, is a wearable camera he developed for his fifteen cats so he could live stream what they are seeing to social media to keep tabs on whether each kitty was getting enough kibbles to eat. “I used to really worry about that,” he says. “But now that I can watch them constantly all day I’ve been able to devote the rest of my attention to building Sm@rt Stickrs.”