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Twikao turns your smiling mug into (^_^)

Free iPhone app converts your facial expressions into Japanese smileys. It could cheer you up when you're feeling ??_?)

How you feeling today? (^_^)/ or (T_T)? Perhaps somewhat (=_=)?

If the above leaves you a tad (?_?), you're not up on your Japanese emoticons. But you can soon get up to snuff with Twikao, an app that automatically converts your mugshot into expressive symbols.

Twikao: If you're in the know, just (^_-) iTunes

Japanese kaomoji (literally, "face letters") differ from Western smileys in several ways. For one, they're read vertically instead of horizontally, so that the brackets in the kaomoji above represent the sides of a face, and the symbols within are eyes and a mouth. For instance, a "T" is a watering eye, and (T_T) is crying.

Another feature of kaomoji is their wild expressiveness. The vertical form lends itself to a myriad of cartoonish little faces and combinations like \(^_^)/, a kind of mini-ode to joy.

Japanese consists of Chinese characters and two syllabaries (hiragana and katakana), and when these are combined with standard QWERTY keyboard symbols, the expressive possibilities are endless. The most elaborate approach works of art, but won't display properly here unless you have the right character encoding.

Kids are always coming up with new kaomoji, and sites like Kaomojiya have thousands of obscure smileys like this smoker: (-i-)y-~~~~. Heck, you can construct entire narratives out of them; witness the gripping tale of Melville's "Moby-Dick" in emoticons.

Twikao, a free app for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad with iOS 4.3 or later, automatically converts pics of your face to the corresponding kaomoji for sharing on Twitter. The latest version has updated smileys and gives you the option of uploading your headshot to Twitpic.

Just remember that if you turn out like this (x_x), you might want to see a doctor.