Polar bears, pick-up trucks, bubble tea, and a gender-neutral Santa will soon be a quick tap away, thanks to Emoji 13.0. On Wednesday, January 29, Unicode released a list of 62 emoji releasing in 2020, with emphasis on gender-neutral figures, animals iconic for conservation efforts, cultural trends, household objects, and expanding skin tone variants.
After 2019 brought a gender-neutral option to most of the people emoji, Emoji 13.0 takes that even further, filling in the gaps with a gender-neutral Santa, or Mx. Claus, as well as a gender-neutral bride and groom. The transgender flag and transgender symbol are also among the list. The new emoji “woman feeding baby” and “man feeding baby” are also joined by a “person feeding baby.”
Unicode says the new list includes 55 gender and skin tone variants, which, with the 62 new emoji, brings the total to 117. Late last year, 168 gender-neutral emoji were added as part of Emoji 12.1 — an update that was originally not supposed to arrive until 2020, but rolled out early when Apple and Google rolled out gender-neutral variants to the keyboard. As emoji increasingly become part of the online lexicon, advocacy groups have pushed for representation for minorities. Besides giving nonbinary users a more accurate emoji version of themselves, gender-neutral emoji, in some cases, display on the keyboard before the user selects from one of the options.
A polar bear and seal also made the cut to be part of the emoji keyboard, Arctic animals that may be more commonly used in conversation as concern for global warming grows. A black cat, bison, and beaver are also on the list, but so are the dodo bird and wooly mammoth, both of which may also show up as a suggestion when typing the word “extinct.” Unicode also added a beetle, cockroach, fly, and worm.
Current trends have influenced a number of new emoji, such as bubble tea, and the party snack currently seeing a resurgence, fondue. Others are cultural icons much older than the internet itself, like the piñata, tamale, nesting dolls, accordion, and the long drum.
A handful of others are characters that feel like they should have become an emoji years ago — like a pick-up truck, a flip-flop, a ninja, and a rock. The items lying around your house are also more likely to be in emoji form, including a mousetrap, plunger, screwdriver, and house plant. A smiley face with a tear, a disguised face, gravestone, roller skate, magic wand, and military helmet also made the cut.
The Unicode Consortium has finalized the set of standards for the new emoji, but the emoji have yet to migrate to devices. While Unicode develops the standard, the companies behind the different operating systems and web platforms have yet to incorporate the figures into keyboards, often with a design that differs between operating systems. Smartphones often don’t integrate the new emoji until early fall.
Anyone can pitch a new emoji to the Unicode Consortium — but besides a lot of paperwork and a bit of design, the process takes patience. The process of submitting an emoji often takes a year or more.