Emoji-only conversation has arrived.
Keymoji, a downloadable keyboard available on iOS 8, actually converts your text into emojis as you type. Users have the option of interjecting emojis mid-sentence along with their text, or replacing the text altogether with miniature cartoon images.
“Coffee break” becomes *coffee cup* and *breaking heart* emojis. “Gym time” becomes *flexing arm* and *clock* emojis. Each word or phrase you type surfaces emoji combinations that, if interpreted correctly, send the same message in pictogram-form.
The idea for Keymoji came when founders Jonathan Zweig, Randy Saaf and Octavio Herrera got sick of sifting through the standard emoji screens searching for the perfect image combination. People enjoy using emojis, they say, but few take the time to dig through the 800-plus emojis to find what they’re looking for. “It’s fun, but it’s been underwhelming,” said Herrera. “Hunting and pecking for an emoji — it just seems like a waste of a cool way to communicate.”
Zweig says Keymoji is more than just a fun keyboard. There’s also a Keymoji app, where users can submit emoji combinations they’ve created themselves. As users fill out this database of emoji phrases, they’ll receive points when others use their suggested emoji combos. Users are also encouraged to submit “emoji art” — giant emoji collages or images — that can be a pain to create without copying and pasting. “There’s nothing quite like crowdsourcing,” said Saaf.
While crafting a company completely around emojis may sound crazy, it’s not as weird as you might think, says Zweig. The Unicode Consortium, the computer text regulator for emojis, says 250 new emojis are coming later this year, which should provide good fodder for Keymoji’s user base. Messaging is also incredibly popular, and Keymoji supplements all of the biggest messaging apps, from Twitter to Snapchat to Facebook, without providing actual competition.
Zweig also believes the rise in smartwatches, like the Apple Watch, will mean more users looking for ways to simplify communication (i.e. eliminate text).
Keymoji’s founders are bootstrapping the company after selling their mobile video ads startup, AdColony, to software company Opera for $350 million in June. After three years in the ad world, the Keymoji founders were eager to jump back into mobile apps; they built mobile games like Tap Reef and Sovereign: Kingdoms before starting AdColony.
The switch to Keymoji was a long time coming. “We’ve always been big fans of emoji,” explained Saaf. We believe that translates to:
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.