Neuroscientists want a mouse maze in upcoming emoji characters

The window for submitting emoji proposals to the global consortium behind the communication phenomenon opens in just four weeks. Already the scramble is on for new icons.

For example, neuroscientists are advocating for a “mouse maze emoji” to be added to the list of more than 3,000 tiny icons. 

Researchers Suhanee Mitragotri, a student at Harvard University and Dr Louise Corscadden, from published an article in The Lancet making the case for a mouse maze emoji.

The mouse maze plays an important role in neuroscience research, particularly studying spatial learning and memory, the authors say. An emoji representing the maze would be a useful tool for communication and to represent progress in the field.

More science-themed emojis enable and encourage public engagement with scientific information argues science communication researcher Marina Joubert, from Stellenbosch University in The Conversation.

But the mouse maze will have to join a long list of emoji proposals under consideration.

New emoji designs are considered and ultimately determined by a group called the Unicode Consortium, established in 1991. 

Members of the public can make suggestions or argue the case for certain emoji, from 4 April to 31 July, following a prescriptive proposal format. But the Unicode Consortium has the final say. 

To be considered, emoji proposals must demonstrate that symbols are distinctive, have the potential to be widely used and could be relevant in different contexts. 

Thirty-one new emoji designs were approved in February, including a shaking face, pushing hands and grey and pink hearts. 

Several emojis have become synonymous with communicating aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the microbe 🦠 syringe 💉 and face with a medical mask 😷.

Palaeontology is well represented by two types of dinosaur 🦖🦕, yet icons for archaeology are lacking (and a proposal for an archaeology emoji was declined in 2021).

Climate change and renewable energy, are also missing from the emoji suite. A UK renewable energy industry group had its bid for a wind turbine emoji rejected, while proposals for solar panels have also been declined.

Emoji first emerged out of the Japanese mobile telecommunications industry in the late 1990s, with the first designs contained within a 12×12 pixel square taking up 18 bytes of data. 

An early set of 176 emoji by Shigetaka Kurita are considered so influential they are now displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art

Emoji use has been on the rise ever since across email, social media and text messaging sites, with the little shareable pics appearing in one out of every five tweets and half of all Instagram comments.

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