In a Nutshell…
In most cases, internet users will already have a basic understanding of avatars. Depending on your platform, you can upload a profile photo or create a 2D or 3D model of yourself to be displayed on social media sites, for example. An avatar is simply an online representation of a user, no matter what form it takes. The digital identity of an avatar will vary from user to user and can either be a static image or an animated 3D model.
A good use case to describe avatars in their current form is Bitmoji. They were initially created as 2D emojis that people could use during conversations. These avatars have now transformed into 3D renditions and can now be used cross-platform in social media applications such as Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and Whatsapp.
In their current state, avatars are utilized by social media users of varying demographics to replicate a version of themselves online. You can customize avatars in various ways, including their hairstyle, clothing, accessories, and much more.
The creation of the metaverse provided an opportunity for avatars to be updated and revamped. Metaverse avatars are no different from online avatars; they carry one's digital identity throughout a given metaverse.. The most significant distinction is the enhanced flexibility of metaverse-based avatars. Online avatars are mostly restricted to a single platform and are not considered interoperable. In comparison, metaverse avatars can teleport cross-platform, enabling users to partake in different experiences throughout different metaverses.
The idea is that whatever avatar you decide to create in-verse will be able to be easily carried over to the different virtual worlds that you choose to visit. This means that metaverse avatars have the possibility of becoming a more fully rounded version of your digital, online identity. Metaverse avatars are generally more adaptable versions of their online counterparts.
For example, Meta (Facebook) is creating incredibly realistic avatars. These new avatars can replicate a person’s likeness and body movements to create a more in-depth feeling of immersion. Companies such as Meta are taking advantage of advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) to create their new metaverse avatars by capturing real-life physical movements and relaying that information to state-of-the-art computer models.
The result is models that can accurately predict shoulder and elbow positions based on your VR headset and controllers’ placement. This means that metaverse avatars will become more true-to-life and intuitive over time.
One of the most significant advantages of metaverse avatars is their use cases. A key advantage of metaverse avatars is their cross-platform interoperability. As the metaverse continues to expand, there is a growing need for users to be able to participate in different experiences. When you enter a new virtual environment, the idea is that you’ll take your avatar along with you. This avatar expansion applies to a host of supported apps and environments, which we envision to be an ever-expanding elastic network.
A prominent example and use case is the recent announcement from Meta that their metaverse avatars will be able to enjoy their own virtual experiences and those from third-party apps and developers. This means that Meta Quest users can use their avatars in various games, such as Epic Roller Coasters and PokerStars VR, to name but a few. This news is fitting as Mark Zuckerberg recently confirmed that Meta avatars will soon be available on Facebook Messenger and Instagram. This opens up a new variety of immersive opportunities for social media users. Soon, you’ll be able to use Meta avatars in Instagram feed posts, stories, and even your Facebook profile picture.
There are two main types of avatars that the metaverse will focus heavily on in the coming years:
The most popular metaverse avatars are virtual reality (VR) avatars. These are the avatars that are used by most virtual reality users today. VR avatars enable users to see and partake in virtual experiences from the POV of the avatar. Some VR users see the current iteration of avatars as a limited representation of their experiences while in-verse.
Users can see VR avatars’ upper body movements, but the lower body is missing because of finite tracking abilities. This is something that Meta is working on at the moment and hope to trailblaze in the coming months as new technological innovations in VR are actualized.
Full-body avatars are more evolved in that they use full-body sensor recognition technology. These types of avatars can replicate both upper and lower body movements. This means that users can use both their hands and legs to control the actions of their avatars in-verse. These avatars are currently limited to a handful of VR games. We hope to utilize full-body avatars in more virtual experiences over time.
Based on current trends, it’s only a matter of time before Meta and other metaverse companies develop their versions in the coming months. The biggest problem that users face now is the hardware and tracking capabilities that enable these movements to take place. For example, Quest 2 users will need full-body tracking hardware to get the most out of their full-body avatars.
In short, yes. Avatars are the primary way we will interact with each other in virtual spaces. Avatars will be the go-to virtual representations of ourselves and will determine how we use and inhabit virtual spaces in the metaverse. More importantly, they will be the driving force behind the interoperable features of the many metaverses.
Avatars will be a consistent virtual spirit (if you like) that will hold our virtual wallet, keys, and important information while exploring the metaverse. The interoperable features advanced virtual avatars are likely to exhibit will enable a smooth transgression between worlds that facilitate cross-platform transactions and value exchanges. In this context, metaverse avatars are much like single sign-on (SSO) credentials that use one set of credentials to access multiple applications–in this case, metaverses.
Avatars will represent digital identity in the metaverse; there’s no argument. Insiders agree that avatars and utility are core representations for socially-driven interactions and perceived virtual identity moving forward. FLUF World NFT creator Dorian Johannink said in a recent interview with Cointelegraph, “Character avatars are a jump-off point, but in order to develop long-term engagement, these assets and environments need to continue to provide deeper unique functionalities that help immerse and provide functional benefits to holders.” This point brings home the fact that virtual avatars are more than just 3D depictions of humans and are more like virtual keys that open the door to our digital identity.
There’s a much darker side to the application of virtual avatar technology. Experts have already identified several issues in psychology and data privacy outlined below.
1. Psychiatric Considerations
One of the most profound issues relating to virtual avatars is the psychological effects they could have on specific users. Experts in neuroscience refer to “depersonalization” as the result of a user believing their own physical body is an avatar. Experts are also concerned that VR could uncover predetermined psychiatric vulnerabilities in some users and spark psychotic episodes.
Some doctors have even warned that virtual reality gaming, specifically the use of photorealistic avatars, could cause people to experience real-life post-traumatic stress disorder. This means we must identify the psychological hazards and manifestations that could arise ahead of market saturation to prevent virtual distress to the most vulnerable users.
2. Privacy & Data
A recent study by Sage used unsophisticated cartoon avatars to show how they can accurately infer certain personality traits of the user. Animating photorealistic avatars of real people, like Facebook’s Codec Avatars, will require more data collection, specifically personal data. Egocentric data is another area that could cause concern around collecting users’ emotions, likes, attention, or dislikes. This data enables platforms to control what you see virtually, how your body looks, and the behavioral mechanics that hold your avatar's personality.
Deep fakes are also cropping up as an issue in the virtual avatar space. There have already been realistic fake depictions of real people, extensively covered by existing laws. But personal data used to create ultra-realistic avatars should not be employed to act out expressions or interactions that people haven’t consented to. Ensuring that the user is in charge of their own experience is central here. It means that stringent security measures around account data use, what data is collected, and how it is used will be essential for future virtual protection.
Codex avatars are the latest developments from Meta and can reconstruct human likeness in the virtual arena with innate accuracy. Backend technologies enable live sensor data to operate a neural network that recreates a virtual copy of itself in real-time using the context of the surrounding world.
Physics-based avatars are also on the way that will use wearable technology to record and sort data on human anatomy. New use cases such as these show the sheer potential for metaverse avatars to be more than just virtual representations of human beings.
Developers are creating avatars with cross-platform interoperability in mind. The metaverse has the potential to bring together and unite thousands of virtual worlds and applications. Virtual avatars will be the persistent identity that follows you cross-platform to explore the multiple iterations of the open metaverse. This will be a key factor in deciding the future of virtual spaces. The interoperability features of the humble virtual avatar will establish how these worlds interact and communicate.
AI solutions are being built to incorporate cross-platform interoperability. In seconds, games like Ready Player Me transform your profile picture into a photorealistic 3D avatar. Collaborating with the Nemesis metaverse means you can now use your Ready Player Me avatar in the Nemise's virtual worlds. Nemesis users can use custom-made avatars across various activities like games, galleries, stories, and other virtual locations. Avatars made in Ready Player Me from a selfie will also be functional across the activities mentioned above.
CEO and founder of The Nemesis, Allesandro De Grandi said, “At The Nemesis, we’re committed to openness, tech neutrality, and interoperability, and Ready Player Me’s technology goes exactly in that direction. We were immediately drawn to the simplicity of creating an avatar through their technology and are looking forward to growing our community by integrating these avatars, allowing our users to explore not only the Nemesis ecosystem but virtual worlds across many metaverses.”
This means the technological innovations in AI graphics software, vision interpretation, and camera hardware are all being developed with metaverse interoperability in mind. Jumping from one world to another with the same virtual identity is key to the success of the interoperable metaverse. Virtual avatars will be further enhanced by new technologies like volumetric video, which projects realistic 3D holograms that’ll help enrich metaverse-based tasks and events.
Virtual avatars aren’t the only ones that will populate the metaverse. Virtual agents are making metaphysical waves in the virtual realm and are already becoming our neighbors, shopkeepers, and bank managers. Read our article ‘Virtual Agents Are Becoming Major Players In The Expanding Metaverse’ to learn more!