A Shakespeare-To-GIF Translator Is Coming To The Interwebs And I Can’t Contain Myself

A Shakespeare-To-GIF Translator Is Coming To The Interwebs And I Can't Contain Myself

Two graduate students at the MIT Media Lab have created a research site that quantifies the emotional content of GIFs, and they hope that one day soon it will enable them to translate Shakespeare into GIF-speak. Travis Rich and Kevin Hu launched GIFGIF on March 3, and it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s so much fun, in fact, that it’s attracted an average 15,000 users per day so far, who are each asked upon visiting the homepage to choose which of two GIFs better expresses a certain emotion.

Rich and Hu collect and analyze the responses, which will help computers to recognize the feelings each GIF represents. As obvious as it is to us what an image of someone rolling their eyes means, it’s not so obvious to your Macbook. The research aims to make that easier by “taking something that’s very easy for humans to read—emotion—and translating it for computers,” said Rich.

The pair got the idea for GIFGIF’s side-by-side comparisons from Place Pulse, another MIT project that uses a voting system to determine how “depressing” or “wealthy” certain neighborhoods appear. This enabled researchers to quantify the correlation between a city’s appearance and its crime rate.

The first thing researchers, who are making the data accessible to other scientists as well, want to create with GIFGIF data is a text-to-GIF translator. “I want people to be able to put in a Shakespearian sonnet and get out a GIF set,” says Hu, in what is basically the most brills idea I’ve ever heard. Tumblr would have a field day with that. The team has plenty more ideas in store for the database’s future, too. “You could reverse-engineer it and use a GIF to find a movie that fits a certain mood,” said Rich. I’m envisioning a “Mean Girls” GIF database. Yes please.

The researchers also found that GIFs are interpreted differently among different cultures, which offers a whole new insight into how emotional cues are interpreted around the world. The most universally agreed upon GIF emotion? Happiness. I guess all those cliches about how “smiles are the same in every language” aren’t too far off!

Next time you’re looking to procrastinate for a few minutes, go play with GIFGIF, its your civic duty — for science!