Project Showcase - Emoji Center by Ben Chaykin

Emoji Center is an interactive art experience exploring the language of emoji, and emotions conveyed through technology. Exhibited at ACT Festival by Benjamin Chaykin at Asia Culture Center in Gwangju, South Korea, visitors to Emoji Center choose an emoji that relates to them, then watch it manifest into the real world. The emoji are brought to life by digitally-enhanced robotic arms, then printed to an official card for visitors to take home and share online.

About the Project

The sterile, minimal, and bright design of the space reflects Emoji Center’s scientific branding, which is present on all materials inside. Using your chosen emoji, a story is animated by robotics, representing the process of sending an emoji to someone. Watch your emoji notice you, reflect on itself by looking into a mirror, dwell in a bath of doubt (electronically-harmless mineral oil), then become tickled and assured of its sense of humor.

“We use emoji every day, but rarely give them a second thought. I want to take them out of their digital cages, and create a strange reality where we can see what they represent a little differently.” – Ben Chaykin, Artist, Emoji Center Creator

Through the official status of Emoji Center, each visitor is granted a certified Card of Validation, holding them ‘legally’ responsible for the emoji of their choosing. A second copy of this card is publicly displayed in the space, on the emoji library wall. At the same time, is a growing online database of all existing Cardholders for the world to see.

The experience is built on a number of hacked-together technologies. Arriving visitors use an iPad to submit a Google Form with their selected emoji and name (or instagram handle). This populates a Google Spreadsheet. A Processing sketch calls Temboo and Sheets API for that latest entry on the spreadsheet, and sends that data to the rest of the system. also uses Sheets API to update in real-time. Each emoji is digitally displayed on an 8” screen, attached to a uArm – an Arduino-based desktop robotic arm. Robotic movement is activated serially by Raspberry Pi running a Processing sketch that listens for OSC messages from Max, and a timeline composed in Vezér. Finally, a Photoshop automation fills a pre-designed template with the current visitor’s information, then prints a card through an Evolis Primacy card printer.

About the Artist

Ben Chaykin is a Seattle based Creative Director / Experience Designer. Web: