We Built an Emoji Flag Translation Facebook Bot for the Olympics

(cross-posted from space150’s blog)

In the four years since the last Summer Olympic Games, a lot of positive change has happened in social media and technology — including the popularization of Snapchat Stories and widespread accessibility of 360º content — that create unrivaled, engaging experiences that would completely shock attendees of the original 1896 Games. However, the restrictions on brands engaging and promoting the event, athletes and cultural milestones will limit engagement and overall reach of the 2016 event.  flagfetch

Updates to the Olympic Committee’s Rule 40 sponsorship guidelines have earned this year’s Olympics a Gold Medal for restrictive use of social platforms. The games have even gone so far as to send strongly-worded letters about using official Twitter hashtags. Which means brands that are non-official partners are pretty much barred from doing anything related to the games.

But for everyday Olympics fans, there will be plenty of opportunity to engage with the games online. On Twitter, follow @Olympics, @OlympicFlame, @Rio2016 and @Rio2016_en.

Not to be outdone, Facebook has also rolled out a number of Olympic features, including country-specific profile picture frames. Much like Snapchat filters, it places the country’s flag and the Rio 2016 logo below your photo. Facebook will also leverage its acquisition of MSQRD to enable users to add a flag to your face when sharing photos or live broadcasts.

On mobile, check out the NBC Olympics App, BBC Olympics App and, of course, Snapchat, which will have a dedicated channel for the games from Rio curated by Buzzfeed.

From an immersive content perspective, Periscope will launch a dedicated channel with exclusive content, Vine is changing it’s Like-hearts to Olympic Flames, and the Olympics YouTube Channel has already proven to be a go-to place for sports explainers and official content. And the Olympic Broadcasting Service has committed to 85 hours of 360º content, “including the opening and closing ceremonies, men’s basketball – including the semi-finals and final – gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing and fencing.”

From a social sharing perspective, fans can use the Trackmoji Emoji Keyboard for sharing customized event-specific icons with friends. And don’t forget the Emoji Flag tab on major platforms including iOS, OS X and Android.

Except there’s one problem, almost nobody in the world can name all the close to 250 global flags in the Unicode Consortium list. Until now…

This week, Twitter launched feature where users can use Tweeting a three-letter country code hashtag that will trigger flag emojis for every team, as well as 50 other related terms (#Gold, #Silver, #Boxing, #SyncronizedSwimming).

At space150, we wanted to get into that emoji-flag translation action, too. So we built a chatbot we’re calling FlagFetch.

flagfetch chatbot

FlagFetch is a Facebook Messenger bot that provides a translation between emoji flags and their country and vice versa. Users can input the Brazilian flag, for example, and receive back “Brazil” or they could say “COL” and it would send the Colombian flag. This allows Facebook Messenger users to very easily lookup and insert flag emojis into their social posts.

To find and add FlagFetch, open Facebook Messenger and search “FlagFetch”. The bot will appear. Once you’ve connected with FlagFetch start sending flag emojis, country codes or country names to get the emoji or country name translation. Then cut/paste to share.

Regardless of brand participation, we expect this to be the most engaging Olympics ever. Rio will be the first Summer Games to air live in prime time since the games in Atlanta 20 years ago. As a result, NBC plans to air more hours of coverage than ever before – across all channels. And despite the heavy restrictions on social media, these the emerging channel opportunities will showcase the way we celebrate our teams today and provide a unique snapshot for the future of live sports.  We’re excited to see how it all plays out and will be watching to see which social network gets the gold.