From the Instagram Engineering blog, a fascinating look at how Instagram used machine learning to understand the meaning, association, and usage of emoji by their users.
Having learned a good representation for emoji, we can begin to ask questions about similarity. Namely, for a given emoji, what English words are semantically similar? For each emoji, we compute the “angle” (equivalently the cosine similarity) between it and other words. Words with a small angle are said to be similar and provide a natural, English-language translation for that emoji.
The post contains examples of what people mean by popular emoji and a semantic map of symbols. Pretty incredible data analysis.