Picking genders for characters could be the next big thing for emoji

Text message emoticons set to feature smiley faces of both sexes and none, hairy and hairless ones and faces from a variety of races - part of a long-overdue makeover

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 March, 2016, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2017, 5:34pm

According to the common emoji keyboard, women don’t run. Only men run. But that could soon change under a new draft proposal to the Unicode Consortium, the body that develops and maintains software standards for texts and characters in the United States.

The document outlines a number of changes, including male, female and neutral gender options for many human-looking characters. If adopted, this would follow Apple’s move last year to unveil a new set of emoji that allows users to pick skin tones, which came after calls for racially diverse emoji.

The new gender options would allow, for instance, a male or female runner.

And, the businessman who levitates? Now a businesswoman or businessperson can hover, for some reason. (Seriously, why is this person in a suit hovering?)

Other changes would allow for customising hair colour to black, blonde, brown, red and grey, as well as bald. According to the proposal, the list of hair options come from “the distinctions made in the US Online Passport form, the UN Grounds Pass application, and other forms such as driver’s licences.”

The proposal also includes changing the direction of characters to face left or right and the possibility for some regional flags.

Individual companies would still have to implement the changes, if adopted by Unicode, on their platforms. For instance, Google’s Android, which already has a set of gender-neutral emoji, doesn’t allow users to pick skin tones for emoji the way that Apple’s keyboard does.

Given the large number of possible combinations, the proposals state that it’s “anticipated that only certain combinations would be supported by major vendors”.

“There is no requirement or expectation that all of the possible combinations – or even any large subset of them – be supported by vendors, until there is technology in the fonts to deal with the combinatorics,” it states.

The Washington Post