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Your emoji will be guided in the right direction by Unicode 15.1

After the COVID epidemic essentially pushed its March publishing back to September, the Unicode Consortium, the organisation in charge of all the symbols we use on computer systems and how we use them, has decided to take until 2023 to acclimatise to a new yearly rhythm in changing its rules. Emoji 15.0’s new characters have been slowly making their way to Galaxy and Pixel screens since the autumn. Unicode 16.0 will be released in September2024, with a lesser upgrade to Unicode 15.1 coming this autumn. The same can be said about the next Emoji 15.1 standard, since its features have now been previewed.

To cut a long tale short, any new emoji we may receive out of 15.1 will be pieced together by sequencing existing emoji together, much as with the Emoji 13.1 upgrade. The appropriate mix of emoji and the magic of zero-width joiners— Google them up if you don’t know what they are, they’re fantastic little tools— may allow users to produce these new possibilities even if input software isn’t updated to offer them from the start.

Today, Jennifer Daniel, chair of the Emoji Subcommittee, posted on the Unicode blog, giving us a sneak peek at the plan for Emoji 15.1. This year Daniel is particularly interested with two issues: (1) the portrayal of families of varying types in a single, sequenced emoji, and (2) the indication of direction. She aims to propose 578 new designs for standardisation to deal with them.

As it is, only 26 emoji show families with space for one or two parents of various sexes and zero, one, or two children of those sexes.

“The inclusion of many permutations of families was well intentioned,” Daniel writes. “But we can’t list them all, and by listing some of the combinations, it calls attention to the ones that are excluded.”

The goal is to accommodate as many people as possible, including grandparents, young adults, children, and animals. Since it will be challenging to fit all of those family configurations into a single emoji, we should anticipate ZWJ family sequences to roll out gradually over future Emoji version releases.

You may have also observed that some emoji, such as automobiles and people, as well as faces depicting motion, are always shown facing left when used by design maintainers. Unicode may adapt Emoji 15.1 to cultures that read both left-to-right and right-to-left by allowing users to code for directionality (certainly to the right, maybe even going up or down). In addition, it frees up the creative expression of storytellers from the confines of conventional forms.

Other new emoji sequences include families and right-facing trains, as well as limes (+), a nodding or shaking head ( or + ), a broken chain (+), and a phoenix ( + ).

This month, the Unicode Technical Committee will have their first meeting to consider these new recommendations. More correspondence throughout the warmer months of the year will provide light on the process of culling.