Why is the sparkle emoji often used to represent AI?

Have you noticed a trend? As more technology companies introduce their AI products and services, there’s a notable similarity among many competitors: they’ve adopted the sparkle emoji in connection with artificial intelligence.

why this emoji?

You can currently spot the sparkle emoji next to “AI Overview” in Google’s search suggestions, prominently displayed at the top of search results. These AI-generated responses have raised concerns among businesses about search traffic. For instance, AI Overview recently humorously suggested fixing blinkers by “replacing blinker fluid.” Additionally, sparkle emojis adorn Google’s Gemini chatbot (formerly known as “Bard”), Spotify’s shuffle button, Adobe Express, OpenAI’s GPT-4, and Zoom’s AI Companion note-taker.

While the emoji wasn’t always linked with AI, the trend seemingly started around 2018. According to YouTuber David Imel, one early instance was the introduction of the “sparkle button” on Twitter in 2018, allowing users to switch between chronological and algorithmically selected “Top Tweets.” Another notable use was in 2020 with Google Photos’ Enhance feature, adding sparkles when using AI to enhance photos.

But what’s the origin of the sparkle emoji and its intended meaning?

The sparkle emoji traces back to Japan in 1999, part of the original set of 176 emojis released by Japanese telecom company NTT DOCOMO. Tech designer Shigetaka Kurita created these emojis, inspired by manga, to be used on phones, pagers, and in emails. Kurita explained that in manga, the sparkle emoji represents sweat droplets, sparkles, or to emphasize something shiny or joyful.

Kurita himself wasn’t aware of the emoji’s adoption in English-speaking countries to symbolize AI products, as in Japan, it doesn’t carry that connotation. He suggested Japan might accept it once AI technology is more entrenched there.

As mobile technology advanced, emoji boards integrated Kurita’s designs, making sparkles widely available.

How did the sparkle emoji come to symbolize AI?

Ed Burnette, CEO of HiddenMind AI, suggests the transition was gradual. He noted that articles on AI breakthroughs began using the emoji to convey the magic and innovation of AI. Jane Solomon from Emojipedia similarly views the sparkle as a way to make unfamiliar AI features seem magical and less intimidating.

Despite AI’s decades-long development, its impact on everyday life remains to be fully seen. The emoji’s adoption for AI has sparked controversy among those who cherished its original versatile usage.

“I dislike that the sparkle emoji now signifies ‘AI’,” expressed one recent user. “Has anyone found an equally vibrant alternative to ✨?” Another commented defiantly on May 13, “I’m reclaiming the sparkle emoji. Who even is AI? I don’t know her ✨ Sparkle supremacy.”

The intersection of AI and emojis continues to evolve, reflecting both fascination and apprehension toward advancing technology.

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